The spine of a human is a marvel of biological engineering. The stiff structures of the spine are provided by vertebrae, which are blocks of bone that protect and support the entire body via the spine. Resting between each vertebrae are the spinal discs. These are connected by ligaments that hold them in place. Where the vertebrae are a flexible protection that supports the spine, shielding the central nerves that flow through it from trauma; the discs are the cushions of the spine. Acting like shocks, the discs of the spine work to absorb impacts from the routine such as walking to the abnormal, like jumping or falling from higher than normal distances.

A herniated disc is where one or more of the discs in the spine becomes deteriorated. This can happen normally through the typical passage of life and time; or it could come about due to traumatic injury. However it occurs, a herniated disc is one that has ruptured. The softer tissues that give the discs their shock absorbing properties begin to bulge out of the normal structure of the disc. When this happens, not only is the spine less able to serve its structural purposes, but the damaged discs are frequently very painful. Since nearly every major nerve in the human body is routed via the spine, even minor damage can be intensely painful.

Key Points:

  • 1Most herniated discs occur in the lower back region, usually between the fourth and fifth vertebrae.
  • 2Your spine is like a jelly doughnut. In between each disc is a jelly-like substance that acts as a shock absorber between each disc.
  • 3When this jelly-like substance is compressed to the point that it disintegrates, discs compress together and can cause pain and numbness.

There can be marked muscle weakness of the lower extremities and even incontinence of bowel and bladder.

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