This Is What Happens To Your Body If A Herniated Disc Goes Untreated

More than 7% of people worldwide live with back pain, and it's the leading cause of disability, according to the International Association for the Study of Pain. Although most cases of back pain stem are minor and stem from poor posture, lack of exercise, or muscle strain, a herniated disc can cause problems if left untreated (via Versus Arthritis).

Your spine's vertebrae have sponge-like discs that protect the bones from excess shock, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. If you fall on your tailbone or lift something too heavy, one of these discs can slip out of place. You might not feel it at first, but if the disc takes up too much space in the spinal column, it can press on one of the nerves. This pressure might be felt in the disc area, but pain might be more severe towards the extremities. If you have a herniated disc in your neck, you might feel pain in your shoulders or tingling or numbness in your arms. Herniated discs are more common in the lower back, and you'll feel a sharp, electric pain in your buttocks or the back of the leg.

According to the Mayo Clinic, an untreated herniated disc could result in making everyday activities difficult. If the disc continues to press on the nerves that affect your bladder or bowels, you could become incontinent. You could also permanently lose sensation in your legs or saddle area.

Treating and preventing a herniated disc

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons says that surgery isn't always the first option for a herniated disc. Your doctor might ask you to reduce your activity and prescribe an anti-inflammatory until the pain subsides. In some cases, a steroid injection at the herniation site will tame the inflammation. A physical therapist can treat a herniated disc through methods such as pelvic traction, electrical stimulation, and stretching exercises. More severe herniated discs might require surgery to repair the damage to the soft tissue.

Some factors can put you at greater risk for a herniated disc. If you have a job that requires you to lift heavy objects, you're more likely to suffer a herniated disc. Smoking reduces the supply of oxygen to your discs, which can make you more susceptible to weakened discs. Genetics, obesity, excessive driving, or not enough exercise can also put you at risk, according to the Mayo Clinic.

To prevent a herniated disc, the Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding strain on the back while lifting by using your leg muscles. Strengthening your core muscles will help to stabilize your spine and improve your posture. If you have a job that requires a lot of sitting, take stretch breaks to keep the spine mobile. You should also avoid wearing high-heeled shoes, which put pressure on your spine.