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The Link Between Obesity and a Herniated Disc

The most common cause of herniated discs is the degeneration that occurs with age. However, it’s not the only cause, and not everyone experiences symptomatic disc herniation as they age. 

Obesity is a significant risk factor for disc herniation because of the added force that extra weight places on the spine, but there are other links between obesity and herniated discs. 

When a disc rupture strikes, visit us at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center. We can diagnose the causes of your herniation as we develop a treatment plan appropriate for the condition. 

What happens when a disc herniates? 

Your spine’s mobility depends mainly on the flexible spacers called spinal discs that sit between each pair of vertebrae. Discs also act as shock absorbers to disperse the forces of movement. 

The construction of spinal discs features a rigid outer ring called the annulus that surrounds an inner gel known as the nucleus. A herniation happens when the nucleus escapes the annulus through a crack or break. 

Even then, a herniation can happen without you knowing. Pain and other symptoms only begin when nerve tissue is affected by the escaping nucleus tissue. 

Risk factors for herniation

Part of the aging process includes the drying and loss of tissue throughout your body, and discs experience this, too. The volume of the nucleus gel may reduce while the annulus becomes less flexible and more brittle. 

A sudden injury can cause a rupture in the annulus wall, or repeated motions may create this condition over time. You might be genetically inclined to suffer herniations, and those who smoke may see premature aging of spinal discs. 

Perhaps the most significant preventable risk factor is obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Carrying extra weight adds additional stress to the loads that your spine manages. 

The link between obesity and a herniated disc

This stress related to obesity affects your spine in several ways. It’s common for this extra weight to affect your posture, creating unbalanced loads on your spine. 

Over time, you may develop tiny radial tears in disc tissue. When combined with aging and other risk factors, the chances of developing symptomatic disc herniation could skyrocket. 

Once you develop lower back pain, exercise becomes more difficult, which could lead to more time seated, a posture that increases the strain on your lower back. While herniated discs can happen anywhere along your spine, they’re most common in the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions. 

In addition to the connection between physical stresses caused by obesity and disc herniation, other damaging effects may also exist, including changes in metabolism and systemic inflammation. Research into these effects is inconclusive, but it suggests that the relationship between obesity and herniated discs could be complex and multi-layered. 

When you’re suffering from symptoms of a herniated disc, your priority is relief. Fortunately, these symptoms typically resolve with time and treatment. There are surgical solutions for herniation symptoms, but these aren’t often necessary.

With three Arizona locations, the physicians at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center are standing by to help you. Call or click to request an appointment today.

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