What Is a Herniated Disc

by Gavin Morrison on October 9, 2014

One common cause of lower back pain is a herniated disc (disc bulge) The human spine is made up of 24 mobile vertebrae that are separated by intervertebral discs. The discs that are most frequently injured (herniated) are the ones at the bottom of the spine (lower lumbar) those between the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae (L4-5) and between the 5th lumbar and 1st sacral vertebrae (L5-S1).

H diskDiscs are made up of a tough outer layer of a cartilage like substance (annulus fibrosis) that encloses a softer jelly substance (nucleus pulposis). A herniation occurs when the annulus fibrosis bulges outward or ruptures completely. When this occurs the nucleus pulposus is squeezed into the bulging part of the disc or protrudes out through the ruptured annulus into the intervertebral space. When a disc bulges or herniates there is lots of inflammation in the ligaments and soft tissues around the disc. This inflammation along with the physical pressure from the disc itself can press on a spinal nerve. This pressure is what causes leg pain, numbness and cramping of leg muscles. If the pressure on the nerve (nerve root) is great enough leg certain muscles can become weak.

If  the nucleus is squeezed all the way out of the disc is called a disc rupture or an extrusion. When the nucleus breaks apart into pieces and moves away from the disc itself, floating freely in the intervertebral space it is sometimes referred to as sequestered herniation.

To find out more about getting treatment for a herniated disc in Boise call Pro Motion Physical Therapy – 208-608-0958

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