Herniated and Bulging Discs
The spinal disc is a soft cushion that sits between each vertabrae of the spine. The spinal discs are composed of a tough outer cartilage (annulus fibrosus) with a squishy center (nucleus pulposis). Like a shock absorber for a car, the disc is the shock absorber for the spine. When too much pressure is placed on the disc, it bulges or herniates. Think of it like a jelly doughnut. Squeeze it too hard and the jelly comes out. That is called a Herniated Disc (Slipped Disc, Bulging Disc).
How does a Herniated Disc Occur?
The discs cushion the spine from compressive forces, but are weak to pressure applied during rotational movements. That is why a person who bends to one side, at a bad angle to pick something up, may more likely herniate a spinal disc than a person jumping from a ladder and landing on his or her feet. Herniation of a disc occurs when the liquid center of the disc bulges outwards, tearing the external ring of fibers, extruding into the spinal canal, and compressing a nerve root. This extruded liquid from the nucleus pulposus may cause inflammation and swelling of surrounding tissue which may cause further compression of the nerve root in the confined space in the spinal canal.
What causes Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
When the herniated disc ruptures and pushes out, the nerves may become pinched. When a herniated disc occurs, the space for the nerves is further diminished, and irritation of the nerve results. This irritation of the nerves going down the arms or legs can lead to the characteristic signs of a disc herniation including but not limited to shooting, electrical pain down the arms and legs and numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
What are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
When the spinal cord or spinal nerves become compressed, they dont work properly. This means that abnormal signals may get passed from the compressed nerves, or signals may not get passed at all. Common symptoms of a herniated disc include:
- Electric, Stabbing, Shooting or Burning Pain
- Tingling & Numbness
- Muscle Weakness