A Herniated disk is a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (disks) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that make up the spine.

A spinal disk has a tough exterior and a softer, jelly-like center. A herniated disk also known as a slipped disk or a ruptured disk occurs when the softer interior of the disk pushes out through a crack in the exterior.

A herniated disk can cause irritation to nearby nerves, which can lead to pain, numbness or weakness in one of the limbs. On the other hand, many cases of a herniated disk show no symptoms and don’t require surgery to correct the problem.



Most herniated disks occur in the lower back (lumbar spine) but they can also occur in the neck (cervical spine).


Common symptoms of herniated disk include:


  • Arm or leg pain: A herniated disk in the lower back can cause intense pain in the buttocks, thigh and calf as well as part of the foot. On the other hand, a herniated disk in the neck can cause intense pain in the shoulder and arm. The pain may get sharper when moving the spine in certain positions.
  • Numbness or tingling: A herniated disk can often lead to numbness or tingling in the area of the body associated with the affected nerves.
  • Weakness: Muscle weakness can occur in the muscles serves by the affected nerves. This can lead to stumbling or an impaired ability to lift or hold items.



Disk herniated is often the result of gradual wear and tear known as disk degeneration. The spinal disks lose some of their water content with increasing age. This causes them to be less flexible and prone to tearing or rupturing.

Some cases of herniated disk are caused by strain of the back muscles instead of the leg and thigh muscles when lifting heavy objects as well as twisting and turning while lifting. In rare cases, a trauma such as a fall or a blow to the back can cause a herniated disk.


Risk factors

Risk factors for a herniated disk include:


  • Weight: Excess body weight puts extra stress on the disks in the lower back.
  • Occupation: Physically demanding jobs have an increased risk of back problems.
  • Genetics: An inherited predisposition can increase the risk of developing a herniated disk.



The spinal cord separates into a group of long nerve roots (cauda equine) just below the waist. In rare cases, a herniated disk can compress the entire cauda equine. In these cases, emergency surgery may be required to prevent permanent weakness or paralysis.

Emergency medical attention may be necessary when there are:


  • Worsening symptoms: Pain, numbness or weakness can increase enough to interfere with daily activities.
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction: The cauda equine syndrome can cause incontinent urination or difficulty urinating even with a full bladder.
  • Saddle anesthesia: Progressive loss of sensation can occur in the inner thighs, back or legs and the area around the rectum.



The following tips can help prevent a herniated disk:


  • Regular exercise to strengthen the trunk muscles
  • Maintaining a good posture to reduce pressure on the spine and disks
  • Maintaining a healthy diet to avoid excess weight