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Herniated Discs: What You Need to Know As You Get Older

It’s probably no surprise to you that general wear and tear on your body results in a number of aches and pains as you get older. 

For people ages 30 to 55, the common culprit for neck or back pain is often a herniated disc, also known as a slipped disc. This condition happens when the jelly-like nucleus of your intervertebral disc is pushed through a crack or tear in the tough outer layer, triggering pain or discomfort.

Board-certified spine surgeon Dr. Brian Subach and our team at Subach Spinal Solutions are experts at treating herniated discs. Here at our world-class facility in Arlington, Virginia, we provide the highest quality of care for patients suffering from spinal and neurological conditions, as well as educating our patients on how to care for their spine.

That’s why we’re here to explain what you should know about herniated discs as you get older, including causes, treatment options, and prevention methods.

What causes herniated discs?

Your spinal column is made up of a series of stacked bones called vertebrae. These bones are separated and cushioned by your discs, which contain a gel-like nucleus protected by a tough exterior (the annulus). 

Over time, the annulus becomes worn down and prone to cracks and tears. This creates an opening for the soft nucleus to get pushed out and irritate the surrounding nerves, causing pain. 

Herniated discs and age

Your chances of getting a herniated disc increase significantly with age, with the 30-55 age group being affected the most. This is due to general wear and tear in the spine, as well as a loss of water content in your body as you age. As your discs lose fluid, they become stiffer and more prone to cracking.

Other risk factors for herniated discs include:

Gender: Men are twice as likely to get a herniated disc compared to women

Genetics: Genetic predisposition can make you prone to herniated discs

Weight: Being overweight or obese puts more strain on your lower back

 

Occupation: Jobs that involve lifting heavy objects; repetitive twisting, pushing, or pulling motions; or driving for long periods can damage your spine

 

Lifestyle: If you don’t exercise much, your back lacks the strength it needs to support your spine and protect it from damage

Smoking: Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen your discs receive, leading to degeneration over time

 

 

Treatment and prevention methods

If you fall into any of the risk factor categories listed above, you can take steps to prevent yourself from getting herniated discs down the line. These include:

Dr. Subach can help determine if your back or neck pain is caused by a herniated disc or another health condition. When you come in, he asks about your symptoms, health history, activities that trigger your pain, and any family history of herniated discs. 

Typically, herniated discs can be treated with nonoperative methods, such as:

If you’re still experiencing pain after six weeks of treatment, Dr. Subach may recommend more invasive options, such as back surgery. If this is the case, don’t fear — your procedure is handled by a highly skilled spine surgeon with years of experience. Additionally, our team members go over all the treatment options with you in detail before proceeding.

If you’re worried that you might have a herniated disc or be prone to getting one, Subach Spinal Solutions can help. Contact our Arlington, Virginia, office today by calling 571-732-0044 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Subach.

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