Your flexible spine contains 24 vertebral bones. Between each of them is a vertebral disc, which cushions the bones and protects your spinal cord when you move. Vertebral discs are made of slick cartilage with a soft center. While they’re naturally durable, discs may slip, ripture, or herniate as the result of acute injury or degeneration.
Disc herniation is one of the most common types of back injury, and it can happen to anyone. Eric Fanaee, MD, specializes in diagnosing and treating herniated discs. Here are five risk factors that could leave you with a herniated disc.
1. Physically demanding work
Your occupation or general activity level could increase your risk of suffering a herniated disc. Physically demanding jobs or hobbies that require repetitive lifting, bending, twisting, pulling, or pushing can increase wear-and-tear on your spine.
Following safety guidelines can lower your risk of injury, but many physically demanding jobs or sports still accelerate your spine’s natural degeneration process.
2. Improper lifting techniques
Everyone is faced with the need to move heavy, bulky objects from time to time. Improper lifting techniques can increase your risk of disc herniation whether you lift heavy things only occasionally or it’s part of your job.
Improper lifting typically means you lift weight with your arms and back muscles instead of using your larger, stronger leg muscles. When you lift with your back, you put extra strain on your spine, making injury more likely. Twisting while you lift or as you set down an object also increases your risk of herniating a disc.
3. Your age (and gender)
When you’re young, your spine is more resilient. Over the years, your vertebral bones become more brittle and your vertebral discs harden. This process is known as disc degeneration, and it’s the leading cause of disc herniation. Everyone experiences disc degeneration as they get older, and having a family history of the condition may mean more severe symptoms.
Men are also more likely to suffer herniated discs than women. In fact, men between the ages of 20 and 50 are at the greatest risk of developing a herniated disc.
4. Body weight
Your spine supports your entire upper body, so it’s no surprise that your body weight affects your risk of disc herniation. If you’re overweight or obese, your risk of disc herniation and back pain may be higher. That’s because extra weight increases strain on your spine.
Smoking cigarettes is linked to an increased risk of disc herniation. Experts believe that smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that your spinal discs get, which may trigger more rapid degeneration and greater risk of herniation over time.
Recognizing the signs of a herniated disc
Herniated discs are most common in the lower back (lumbar spine) and the neck (cervical spine). Your symptoms may vary depending on the cause and location of your injury, but signs typically include:
If you have a lumbar herniated disc, you might feel numbness and tingling in your buttocks, legs, or feet. If your herniated disc is in your neck, symptoms may affect your shoulders, chest, arms, or hands.
Do these symptoms sound familiar? You might have a herniated disc. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Fanaee to uncover the cause of your pain and get a treatment plan to fit your needs. Contact us online or call today.