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What does it mean to have a herniated disc?

A herniated disc happens when the centre of the intervertebral disc, the nucleus pulposus travels outside the tight bands of fibrous bands of annulus that form the outside of the disc. Yes but… what does it really mean?

Just imagine your vertebral column is made out of lego pieces. Every piece fits tightly with the one above and below and to prevent the pieces from rubbing on one another, there are little cushions placed in between. These cushions are made like Boston cream doughnuts: tight bands of dough around and a semi-soft filling on the inside that adds extra cushioning.

The intervertebral discs (the Boston cream doughnuts) are very important to ensure that impacts do not prematurely use the vertebraes (Lego pieces) and that forces are divided around the spine to reduce stresses.

Following intense efforts or repetitive movements with the spine bent forward or rotated, or following an accident, discs can get injured and be fragilized. The fragilized zone, usually located on the dough part of the doughnut, allows for the Boston cream filling to make it’s way towards the edges of the disc, causing a bump. This is what we call a herniated disc.

Do herniated discs always cause pain and discomfort? Of course not. A little bump on your doughnut doesn’t mean it’s not good anymore! Pain will only be present if the bump is big enough to pinch the nerve next to it. Otherwise, most herniated discs are painless and symptoms free.

The main symptoms found with a pinched nerve are:

  • slight to intense pain along the nerve territory (presentation variable depending on which nerve is being pinched)
  • Pins and needles going down the arm or leg (along the nerve territory)
  • Stiffness along the spine


You think you are suffering of an herniated disc or you have medical imagery results that show herniated discs and you want to take actions on your symptoms? Please call us for an appointment today!