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Discs are small circular, compressible cushions between the vertebral bones in the spinal column. They act as cushions for the vertebrae. A herniated disc bulges from its proper place, putting pressure on spinal nerves. This is most common in the lower spine.
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A herniated disc is caused by reduced water content, which results in flattening and less cushioning. It can also be the result of trauma.
A herniated disc is generally associated with normal aging. It is more common in people after age 30 years of age. Other factors that may increase your chance of a herniated disc include:
A herniated disc may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your spine will be examined. The movement, strength, and reflexes of your arms and legs will be tested.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Staying active may be better than bed rest. Treatments may include:
The following therapies may be used:
Your doctor may advise:
Interventional spine care treatments may include:
Surgery may be used for people who fail to respond to other treatments. Immediate surgery is necessary for cauda equina syndrome. Options include:
To help reduce your chance of a herniated disc:
North American Spine Society
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Awad JN, Moskovich R. Lumbar disc herniations: Surgical versus nonsurgical treatment. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2006;443:183-197.
Humphreys CS. Clinical evaluation and treatment options for herniated lumbar disc. Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(3):575-582.
Lumbar disk herniation. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116077/Lumbar-disk-herniation. Updated September 6, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 12/20/2014