There are 4 Stages of a Intervertebral Disc Herniation
Intervertebral Disc Herniation (IVDH) most commonly occurs in the cervical and lumbar spine. Here are the 4 stages that cause this condition:
- Disc Degeneration: During this stage, no bulging or herniation occurs. The nucleus pulposus (center of the disc) weakens due to chemical changes in the disc associated with the aging process. The disc becomes brittle and begins to dry out. Over time it becomes less able to absorb the shock of your movements. Physical changes in the disc due to trauma can also speed up this process.
- Prolapse: During the prolapse stage, the shape or position of the disc changes. A slight bulge or protrusion begins to form, which may begin to crowd the spinal cord or spinal nerves exiting at that level.
- Extrusion: During the extrusion phase, the gel-like nucleus pulposus extrudes into the thick wall of the annulus fibrosus. The extrusion is still self-contained within the disc at this point.
- Sequestration: During this stage, the nucleus pulposus breaks through the annulus fibrosus borders, and moves out of the disc space into the spinal central canal.
Causes of Disc Herniation
Disc Herniation Cause #1: Wear and Tear on the Spine
Spinal pain from a herniated disc is often due to daily wear and tear on the spine. This is often called degenerative disc disease. Intervertebral discs act like shock absorbers for our spine and body. Discs are designed to absorb shock from movement, such as twisting, bending, sitting and walking. Over time, our discs deteriorate naturally. Physical trauma to the spine like a slip and fall or car accidents can accelerate the degeneration process making them more susceptible to early degeneration and spinal decay.
Over time, the tough outer layer of the disc (the annulus fibrous) begins to weaken, allowing the jelly-like inner layer (the nucleus pulposus) to push through, developing a bulging disc or herniated disc.
Disc Herniation Cause #2: Injury
Trauma and injury can also cause a disc herniation. A common way that patients hurt themselves and develop a disc herniation is by using improper lifting techniques. You can easily herniate a disc by bending at the waist without bending your knees and rotating your spine at the same time while lifting a heavy object. Car accidents can also create a shearing effect due to jerking movements on impact.
Disc Herniation Cause #3: A Combination of Degeneration and Injury
It’s possible for a susceptible and weakened intervertebral disc to experience trauma causing an immediate herniation. Sometimes, a minor injury is the final straw to a previously weakened disc. Something as simple as sneezing can be the final trigger to a disc herniating. Any small sudden force can be enough to cause a herniation to an already weakened disc. Disc herniations occur most commonly in the cervical and lumbar spine.
Want to know how our doctors treat disc herniations without medications or surgery? Give us a call at (619) 756-7510.
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