Due to age,
injury, or both, the outer layer of a spinal disc may dry out and
form tiny cracks. Sometimes this causes a:
Bulging disc. Some of the thick gel in the disc may leak into the cracks. The disc
may begin to bulge out from between the bones of the spine (vertebrae).
Ruptured disc. The gel breaks through the capsule.
Free fragment. Fragments of a ruptured disc may
break completely free of the disc and lodge in the
Any of these stages can cause pressure on a nerve
root and symptoms of pain and numbness.
The cracks in the disc don't repair themselves, but the pain usually fades over time. Often
the body reabsorbs the material from the disc, which helps the pain go away. This process is called resorption. About
half of the people with herniated discs in the low back recover within 1 month. And
within 6 months, most recover.1
It's important to see your doctor if you've had constant or increasing pain for more than 4 to 6 weeks. Getting help early on can lower your chance of having lasting problems, such as the following:
Pain may come and go. Pain-free periods happen less and less.
and recurring pain can develop because of continued tissue irritation caused by
the disc pressing on a nerve.
Symptoms caused by
long-term nerve root compression include loss of agility, strength, or
sensation in one or both legs and feet.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
January 21, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this