Typically caused by the normal wear and tear of aging, a herniated disc is a degenerative condition in which some of the soft, jellylike center of an intervertebral disc pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior. Sometimes, it is referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc.

A herniated disc typically occurs in the lower back, but it can also be found in the neck. Although some people experience no symptoms at all, a herniated disc can irritate nearby nerves and result in back and neck pain, along with numbness or weakness in an arm or leg.

As the body ages, your spinal discs lose some of their water content, which makes them less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing. Disc herniation is most often the result of this degeneration. Other possible causes include:

Repetitive Stress

Repeatedly lifting heavy objects while bending at the waist can cause a series of small tears to develop in a disc’s outer wall, tears that can worsen over time and lead to full disc herniation.

Spinal Trauma

Injuries that result from a forceful blow to the spine can cause immediate disc herniation.

Being Overweight

The spine must support the majority of the body’s weight, and the pressure of carrying extra pounds, particularly in the abdominal region, can strain and damage the spinal components.

Poor Nutrition

An unbalanced diet can lead to weight gain and also deprive the intervertebral discs of the nutrients needed to remain supple and strong.

Tobacco Use

Smoking inhibits circulation and interferes with the delivery of essential nutrients throughout the body, including the spine.


A family history of disc herniation and other degenerative spine conditions can increase the likelihood an individual will develop similar conditions.
In most cases of herniated disk, a physical exam and a medical history are all that’s needed to make a diagnosis, though in some cases imaging tests are required.
herniated disc

Conservative treatment relieves symptoms in 9 out of 10 patients suffering from a herniated disc. Typical conservative treatment includes:


  • Exercise
  • Heat or ice
  • Traction
  • Ultrasound
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Bracing for the neck or back


  • Over-the counter pain medications
  • Prescription narcotics
  • Nerve pain medications
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Cortisone injections

For the 10% of patients that aren’t respondent to conservative treatment, surgery may be recommended. In many cases, surgeons will remove the protruding portion of the disk. However, at times the entire disk must be removed and the vertebrae will be fused together.

As an alternative, some patients may opt to receive adult stem cell therapy.