The symptoms that stem from a herniated disc can be considerable and make even the smallest movements an exercise in excruciating pain. Whether you’ve already experienced a herniated disc or you’d rather not find out for yourself how this condition can affect your life, knowing your risk factors is very important.
While not all the risk factors for a herniated disc can be avoided, some are within your power to change. With that in mind, the team here at Advanced Spine Care and Pain Management present five of the most common risk factors for herniated discs.
1. Disc degeneration and aging
Your spine consists of 33 vertebrae that are separated by 23 discs that provide shock absorption and support, as well as encourage range of movement. Over time, these discs can begin to break down, which is a perfectly natural byproduct of aging.
Called degenerative disc disease (DDD), this condition doesn’t necessarily lead to symptoms, such as back pain and neck pain, but it is prevalent. Among those who don’t have symptoms, disc degeneration is found in 37% of 20-year-old people, and this number increases to 96% of 80-year-old people.
When symptoms do arise, it’s typically due to disc herniation, which means portions of the disc are compressing sensitive nerve roots.
While there may be nothing you can do about aging and degenerative changes in your spine, exercises that strengthen the muscles in your back can help better support your spine and slow conditions like DDD.
2. Excess weight
If you’re carrying more pounds than your body is designed for, the extra pressure falls on your musculoskeletal system, including your discs. Excess weight not only makes you more vulnerable to a lumbar herniated disc, the odds of the same disc herniating again increase 12 fold. Losing weight can help you avoid a herniated disc.
Men are twice as likely to develop a herniated disc in the lower back than women. While there’s nothing you can do about your gender, knowing this risk is heightened might motivate you to take steps to protect your spine, such as back-strengthening exercises.
4. Overstressing your back
If you have an occupation in which you routinely rely on your back (think lifting heavy objects), you’re more at risk for a herniated disc. To offset this risk, we suggest wearing back support devices, strengthening your back, and using your legs more to help with the physical efforts.
When it comes to your health, smoking isn’t doing you any favors, and we’re going to add heightened risk for a herniated disc to the long list of complications that come from tobacco use. When you smoke, you compromise the blood flow to your discs, which can accelerate degeneration. Additionally, should your disc herniate, it will heal more slowly, as your blood isn’t able to deliver healing resources as readily.
A herniated disc may be unavoidable under certain circumstances, but if you do what you can to understand and mitigate your risks, you can certainly lower your chances of developing this painful condition.
Should you develop a herniated disc despite your best efforts, we’re here to help. For expert treatment of your herniated disc, please contact us by clicking on the “request appointment” button or by calling one of our offices in Staten Island or Hartsdale, New York.