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What Is a Herniated Disk?

What Is a Herniated Disk?

The bones of your spine, called vertebrae, are separated by rubbery disks. If one of them tears, you have a “ruptured” disk. When the jelly-like substance inside leaks and pushes on a nearby nerve, it’s called a “herniated” disk.

What Causes It?
It’s often hard to know exactly what makes a disk break open. It could be that you lifted something heavy and strained your back. A simple awkward turn or twist could do it, or even a fall or sudden hit to the body. Sometimes it’s just aging. As you get older, your disks start to lose water, which means they don’t flex as well and may tear more easily.

What Are the Symptoms?
You might notice a sharp pain that shoots from your rear end down the back of your leg. Your leg or foot could feel weak, numb, or tingly. In the neck, a herniated disk can send pain, tingling, and numbness down your arm and into the muscles between your neck and shoulders.

Who Gets It?
You’re more likely to tear a disk if you lift, push, or bend a lot or do the same motion over and over. Think of warehouse or delivery workers. Sitting all day in the same position, as many office workers do, can also do it. It happens more after middle age and if you’re overweight or a smoker. Some people inherit genes from their parents that lead to disk problems.

It’s best to get expert advice from your trusted physical therapist to guide you on the right way so you don’t reinjure yourself or make your symptoms worse.