A herniated disc is one of the more common disorders of the back. It happens when one of the discs between the vertebrae of the spine is flattened as a result of compression forces that the tissues can not handle. The disc collapses and fluid can leak out of it into the surrounding tissues, and the space for the nerve making up the spinal cord decreases. But what is often misunderstood is what conditions cause a herniated disc in the first place.
First of all, herniated discs are found more often in the young, rather than older people. Younger spines have more hydraulic behavior in the discs, as well as a larger amount of water. Thus, especially for people working in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, it is important to take care of their spines. As people age, other low back disorders may become more likely, but herniated discs are more often discovered in younger patients suffering with back pain.
One cause of this spine injury is that the disc must bend all the way to its full range of motion. Unless the back is bent and the disc itself comes to the end of the range of motion, the back will be able to prevent herniation from occurring. Each section of the spine only has a small amount of motion that it can go through, as the back works all together to twist or bend. When one section moves beyond its failure tolerance, it can herniate and cause back pain.
Extremely bad posture can also lead to a herniation of a spinal disc, through full flexion of the trunk. This can be a deviated posture that is held for a long period of time, causing the disc to fail as it fatigues; or the disc can fail as a result of numerous low-level loads being placed on the spine. What this really means is that fatigue can be a major cause of disc herniation. Lifting heavy objects is not as common a cause as holding a bad posture for too long or lifting lighter loads with a flexed trunk and rounded back too many times.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time is also linked with herniated discs and back pain. Whether this is from a workplace-related condition or from being too sedentary in one’s personal life, sitting with a flexed trunk places additional stress on the joints of the spine and can lead to a collapse of a disc. As with the case of holding a position for too long, just sitting in a bad position creates additional loading on the spine and can lead to injury.
Thus, these four conditions should be avoided by people who are at risk of developing back pain or herniating a disc. All of us can improve our posture and make sure that we are not sitting in the same position for too long. Younger people will have to take special care of their spines in order to keep them in good condition, and workers should do as much as they can in their occupation to decrease the prolonged stress on their backs.