A herniated disc is a condition that occurs along the spinal cord but commonly occurs in the lower back. It’s sometimes referred to as a ruptured or bulging disc and is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. Although low back pain from a herniated disc can very painful, most people feel much better with just a couple of weeks or months of nonsurgical or chiropractic treatment.


A disc begins to herniate when sudden injury or wear and tear forces its nucleus to push against its outer ring. It is this pressure against the outer ring that may result in lower back pain. If there’s persistent pressure, the nucleus may push through to the outer ring of the disc, causing it to bulge. This creates pressure on the spine and adjacent nerve roots. Moreover, the disc material releases chemical irritants that irritate and inflame the nerve. An irritated nerve root may result in weakness, numbness, and pain in one or both legs.


A herniated disc is often the result of disc degeneration – the natural age-related wear and tear on the spine. Discs typically have a high water content in children and young adults. As people age, however, the discs slowly lose their water content and flexibility. As such, they start shrinking and the spaces between vertebrae get narrower. The discs become more prone to herniation because of this normal aging process. Traumatic events that cause pressure on the spinal cord, such as a fall, can also cause a herniated disc.

Risk factors

Certain factors may increase the risk of low back pain from a herniated disc, which can be caused when instead of using the legs one uses the back to lift heavy objects. Men between 20 and 50 years are most likely to have a herniated disc. Being obese also puts added stress on the discs in the lower back, which can result in a herniated disk.

Bottom line

Back pain affects about 70 percent of people at some point in time and usually resolves within about six weeks or so. Treatments may vary depending on factors such as preference and extent of the damage. Maintaining proper posture, a positive mental attitude, and remaining active under the supervision of a chiropractor are all critical elements of recovery. A doctor may recommend surgery if conservative treatment options yield no positive results.