A herniated disc can be an incredibly uncomfortable experience when even small movements, such as getting up from a chair or even turning a door knob, can cause shooting pain. Whether you’ve had a herniated disc or you know from friends and family that it’s a condition best avoided, you want to prevent the condition in the future. A great step toward that goal is understanding your risks.
To get you started, HealthFirst’s Dr. Jonathan Singer pulled together a few of the more common risk factors for herniated discs. As you’ll see, there are some that are beyond your ability to change, but others that aren’t. Either way, having a basic understanding of your risks for this leading cause of lower back pain can go a long way toward prevention.
The primary risk beyond your control
As we mentioned, there are some risks that place you more at risk for a herniated disc, and we want to concentrate on age here.
Your spine is made up of vertebrae that are separated by intervertebral discs that act as spacers. These discs feature a tough cartilage outer layer (annulus fibrosus) that houses a jelly-like substance (nucleus pulposus) that provides cushioning and shock absorption in your back and neck.
As you get older, the wear and tear on your disks can weaken them, and your body also naturally loses moisture, rendering your disks more brittle and prone to herniating.
Herniated discs may run in families, so if you have relatives that are prone to herniated discs, you might be, too.
Common risk factors for herniated discs
Herniated discs tend to occur frequently in the 30- to 50-year-old population, which means older age isn’t the only predictor of herniated discs.
There are several conditions, events, or behaviors that are common among those who develop herniated discs at any age, including:
It makes sense that the more weight you’re carrying, the more pressure you’re placing on your intervertebral discs. Not only does being overweight make you more vulnerable to a herniated disc, people who are overweight are 12 times more likely to herniate the same disc again.
Standing or sitting for long periods
If you have an occupation or activity that keeps you on your feet or in a chair for hours on end, this can make you more susceptible to disc herniation.
When you smoke, you impede blood flow to your discs, which can lead to premature degeneration.
There are other factors, such as lifting heavy objects and repetitive motions that place stress on your spine, but the above are the most common.
Preventing herniated discs
There are several ways you can help to prevent herniated discs, depending upon your risk factors. Losing weight, quitting smoking, and exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles in your back are at the top of the list.
We also recommend that you come in to have us decompress your spine if you’re showing signs of compression. Our ability to create more space along your spine takes the pressure off your discs and the surrounding nerves.
To learn more about your prevention options for herniated discs, please contact one of our offices in Greenwood Village, Colorado, or Cheyenne, Wyoming, to schedule a consultation.