The spine is made up of a series of bones called vertebrae, which are separated by discs. These discs act as shock absorbers, helping to distribute the weight of the body and allowing the spine to move freely. Each disc is made up of a tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and a soft, gel-like center called the nucleus pulposus.
In a healthy disc, the annulus fibrosus is strong enough to contain the nucleus pulposus. However, over time, the disc can become damaged due to factors such as age, injury, or degeneration. When this happens, the annulus fibrosus may develop small cracks or tears, allowing the nucleus pulposus to push through. This is known as a herniated disc.
When the nucleus pulposus herniates, it can press on nearby nerves, leading to symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected area. The location of the herniated disc will determine the specific symptoms experienced. For example, a herniated disc in the lumbar region of the spine can lead to pain in the lower back and legs, while a herniated disc in the cervical region can lead to pain in the neck and arms.
In addition to the symptoms caused by nerve compression, herniated discs can also lead to inflammation and swelling in the affected area. This can cause additional pain and discomfort and can make it difficult to move or perform daily activities.
In conclusion, herniated discs are caused by damage to the discs in the spine, which allows the gel-like center to push through the tough exterior. This can lead to symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness, depending on the location of the herniation. Understanding the pathophysiology of herniated discs can help to understand the symptoms and treatment options available.
It is important to note that the information provided above is general and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you are experiencing symptoms of a herniated disc, it is important to call Dr. Tariq Hilal at (562)534-2606 to make an appointment today and discuss your symptoms.
Dr. Tariq Hilal
Diplomate American Boards of PM&R and Pain Medicine