A herniated disc, also referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc, is a common condition that can be extremely painful and debilitating. A herniated disc develops when one of the cushion-like pads between the vertebrae moves out of position and presses on adjacent nerves.
The human backbone, or spine, consists of 26 bones called vertebrae. Between each vertebrae lie rubbery, cushion-like pads (referred to as "discs") that help keep the vertebrae in place and act as shock absorbers. Spinal disks have been likened to doughnuts with a soft, jelly center and a tougher exterior. A herniated disk occurs when some of the soft interior slips out through a crack in the disk's wall. Most commonly, this occurs in the back, but it can also happen in the vertebrae of the neck. The escape of this "jelly" is thought to release chemicals that directly irritate nerves in the surrounding area and cause significant pain. There is also a chance that the prolapsed disk can press up against nerves and cause pain through compression.
A herniated disk can lead to numbness or weakness in one or more limbs. Contrarily, some people experience no associated pain with a herniated disk, particularly if the disk does not press on any nerves. Although some cases of slipped disks are not associated with any symptoms, many are, and symptoms can include: