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Understanding disk herniation

As with all injuries of the spine, a disk herniation in Illinois is potentially serious. It may be helpful to understand what a disk herniation is, what causes it and what one can do to prevent it. 

To understand disk herniation, it is important to first understand what a disk is. According to the Mayo Clinic, disks consist of cartilage and exist in the spaces between the vertebrae. Their purpose is to act as cushions, absorbing the shock of any blow to the spinal column. Each disk actually consists of two separate layers: a soft layer of cartilage on the inside surrounded by a protective layer of tough outer cartilage. If the harder outer layer of cartilage ruptures, allowing the softer inner layer to protrude out through the crack, then the disk has become herniated.

A doctor may also refer to a herniated disk as a slipped or ruptured disk. According to WebMD, while a herniated disk may result from normal wear and tear on the spine as the body ages, a disk can also rupture as a result of trauma to the spine, such as a slip-and-fall accident. Herniated disks can occur anywhere throughout the spine, but most occur in the lower back, also known as the lumbar region, while the upper spine region in the neck accounts for only 10 percent of cases. Though some disk herniations are asymptomatic, others cause extreme pain by pressing against the spinal cord or the surrounding nerves. 

Maintaining a normal body weight reduces the risk of back problems, including disk herniation. Another preventative measure is a moderate exercise program performed on a regular basis to maintain flexibility.

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