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What Causes a Herniated Disc Protrusion?

Heavy lifting can cause a herniated disc protrusion.
A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2014
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A herniated disc occurs when the casing holding the gel-like fluid between vertebrae — known as the spinal disc — ruptures and presses against the nerves of the spine. The term "herniated disc protrusion" is actually a misnomer, as a protrusion and a herniation are two different states. A protrusion occurs when the spinal disc bulges outward, but the gel-like fluid does not leave the spinal disc. In other words, the spinal disc does not rupture, which would be termed a herniated disc. When people mention a herniated disc protrusion, they are actually referring to a disc protrusion, not a herniation.

The concept behind the term "herniated disc protrusion" remains the same: the gel-like fluid is contained within an encapsulation, and when that encapsulation bulges outward, a protrusion occurs. When that protrusion leads to a rupture, a herniated disc has occurred. These conditions are caused by spinal compression, which can happen when the spine endures a direct trauma, an awkward twisting motion, or a gradual degradation of the spinal disc itself. A herniated disc or a herniated disc protrusion — known simply as a disc protrusion — can lead to other health issues such as sciatica, lower back pain, chronic headaches, and leg pains.

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Regular heavy lifting can lead to a herniated disc or herniated disc protrusion. The constant compression of the spine can put undue stress on the spinal disc, leading to a bulge or rupture. Athletes often endure herniated discs due to the regular strain placed on the spine, and regular twisting motions can also lead to the likelihood of a herniated disc or protrusion. Injuries are not limited to athletes only, however, as long periods of sitting or standing can also lead to spinal compression. Automobile accidents or falls can also cause a direct trauma resulting in spinal compression.

Poor posture while sitting in an office chair can lead to a herniated disc, especially if the person does not exercise regularly. As muscles weaken, they can no longer support the spine in the manner that they are designed to. The spine is then more likely to compress, especially if the office chair does not offer adequate lumbar spine support as well as neck and shoulder support. A regular workout routine that strengthens the core muscles of the body — that is, the lower back muscles, stomach muscles, and hip and groin muscles — can help prevent a herniated disc or a protrusion in the future. Regular stretching can also help keep the muscles of the spine healthy and limber, which will in turn prevent spinal compression.

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