A herniated or ruptured disc, popularly known as a slipped disc, is one of the most common causes for pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. Discs are pads of fiber and cartilage that contain rubbery tissue. They lie between the vertebrae, or individual bones, which make up the spine. Discs act as cushions, accommodating strains, shocks, and position changes. A disc may rupture suddenly, due to injury, or a sudden straining of the spine when it is in an unnatural position. In other cases, the problem may come on gradually as a result of progressive deterioration of the discs with aging. The lower back is the most common area for this problem, but it sometimes occurs in the neck, and occasionally in the upper back.
A herniated disc occurs when a part of the disc is pushed out of position, into the spinal canal, through a tear or "rupture." In the disc’s new position, it may press on spinal nerves producing severe pain down the arm(s) or leg(s), depending upon where the herniation is located on the the spine. A herniated lumbar disc can produce a sharp, severe pain down the entire leg and into the foot. The spinal canal has limited space and is inadequate for the spinal nerve and the displaced herniated disc fragment. In the lower back, compression and subsequent inflammation is directly responsible for the pain one feels down the leg, termed "sciatica." The direct compression of the nerve may produce weakness in the leg or foot, depending upon which spinal nerve is compressed. If a cervical disc in the neck is involved, then the symptoms may be in the arm or hand.
This type of injury can be caused by a multitude of factors, and can cause permanent disability. It is important that the herniated disc sufferer speaks with a qualified attorney to be sure that his or her rights and remedies are pursued to the fullest.