Cause of disc herniation

Our spine bears the weight of all of our daily activities, from how frequently we move to how much weight we lift at one time. With so much pressure put on our spinal discs, it’s no surprise that many of our daily activities can impact our spine health. The following lifestyle risks can cause pain, strain, and in some cases can even cause lumbar disc herniation.

5 Potential Causes of Disc Herniation

1. Sedentary Lifestyle

Sitting for long periods of time can put pressure on the spine due to dehydration of the lumbar discs. Frequently changing positions is essential to promote the flow of fluid and nutrients to the discs. Pressure fluctuations can occur based on sitting posture and overall level of lower back support.

A study suggests that using a backrest and/or armrests for support, as well as decreasing the flexion angle of the upper body, can reduce spinal loads while sitting. Driving, especially for long periods of time, can also put excess strain on the spine. When driving long distances, try to stop, stand, and stretch every few hours to minimize pain and decrease the risk of spinal injury or irritation.

2. Heavy Lifting

Heavy lifting without bending the knees puts a serious strain on the spine. Although no universal weight amount is defined as “heavy,” it’s typically considered anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds, depending on the individual—but it doesn’t require time spent at the gym or lifting weights. In this case, heavy lifting could mean everything from unloading groceries from the trunk of your car and carrying a basket of laundry to lifting a large dog or child.

One experiment found that lifting and carrying a bottled beverage case with a weight of around 43 pounds put the most pressure on the spine, more than twice as much pressure caused by jogging and eight times as much pressure as is contained in the average car tire. Always use proper lifting techniques, such as bending at the knees, to minimize pressure on your spine and reduce the risk of lumbar disc herniation.

3. High-Impact Exercise

High-impact exercise with poor form can also cause lumbar disc herniation. For instance, any exercises that involve a lot of twisting or bending can put excess pressure on the spine. High-impact activities such as jogging, aerobics, and martial arts can all be very jarring, especially for those with existing issues with back and leg pain.

In fact, according to the National Spine Health Foundation, “any repetitive exercise, with or without load, where the lumbar spine is allowed to flex, round, or flatten, will over-stress the discs and ligaments.”  On the other hand, low-impact exercises like swimming, walking, and cycling put less pressure on the spinal discs and also help relieve painful symptoms caused by disc herniation.

4. Poor Sleeping Position

Stomach and side sleeping positions have been linked to chronic back pain. To reduce your risk of pain and potential lumbar disc herniation, avoid sleeping on your stomach. When sleeping on your side, try placing a pillow between your legs and switching sides occasionally to reduce strain on your spine.

Regardless of how you sleep, the pressure in your disc may double (or more!) overnight as your disc rehydrates. A study found that after seven hours of sleep, spinal pressure increased by 240 percent. Some research even suggests that your lumbar discs may be more susceptible to herniation earlier in the day, so take extra precautions in the morning.

5. Household Activities

Activities like cleaning and gardening that involve a lot of bending over, twisting, and lifting can also put excess pressure on your spine. This is especially true when you’re remaining in the same position for hours on end, such as bending over your garden without taking breaks to stretch. If you already struggle with sciatica due to a herniated disc, gardening, and other household activities can be particularly troublesome.

How to Prevent Herniated Discs

Seemingly harmless daily activities can impact spine health and even cause lumbar disc herniation. With that said, you can protect your spine and prevent a herniated lumbar disc by engaging in healthy habits, like practicing good posture, using proper lifting techniques, and staying active.

While this blog is meant to provide you with information to support your well-being while considering or waiting for spinal surgery, it is not intended to replace professional medical care or provide medical advice. If you have any questions about the information given, please ask your doctor, who is the only one qualified to diagnose and treat your pain and spinal condition. 

Recent Posts by Mark Gillespy, MD

Mark Gillespy, MD

Dr. Mark C. Gillespy is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and a long time resident of the Daytona Beach area. He is the son of Dr. Thurman Gillespy Jr., who founded The Orthopedic Clinic in 1961 and joined the practice his father started after completing his residency in 1992.

Dr. Gillespy is passionate about developing and perfecting innovative methods to treat his patients so they experience shorter hospitalization and faster recovery times.

His total hip joint replacement surgeries are performed through a direct anterior approach, which avoids the cutting of any hip muscles. He is also one of the few doctors in the Daytona area who performs Birmingham Hip Resurfacing surgery. This innovative technique preserves more of the patient’s original joint.

He’s perfected minimally invasive approaches to help patients with spinal disc conditions, spinal fractures, and spinal fusion surgeries.

Clinical Expertise:

  • Spine: Cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spinal operations; spinal decompression and fusions; kyphoplasty treatment of spinal fractures
  • Knee: Arthroscopic surgery of the knee, partial and total knee joint replacements
  • Hip: Anterior total hip joint replacements, Birmingham Hip Resurfacing

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