Even if you don't know what a herniated disc is, it sounds like something you should avoid. That makes sense because this health issue can be excruciatingly painful—but, in an odd twist, a herniated disc doesn't always hurt.

The discs in your back are rubbery cushions that sit between the vertebrae in your spine (interlocking bones). A disc acts as a shock absorber in everyday life, protecting your spine from the repetitive impact of walking and running. These discs have softer centers and harder exteriors, similar to jelly donuts. When one becomes herniated, the soft inner portion pushes through a tear in the outer portion, which can cause pain, numbness, and weakness.

However, it is possible to have a herniated disc that simply...hangs out without causing any symptoms. Here are some interesting facts about this condition.

1. Disc herniation usually occurs due to gradual, age-related wear and tear
This is referred to as disc degeneration. Because your spinal discs no longer contain as much water as they once did, they become less pliable as you age. This makes them more likely to rip and leave a hole for some of that inner "jelly" to spill out, even if you do something minor like twist your back or lift something with your back rather than your legs. Because the precipitating movement can be so subtle, you may be unaware of what caused your herniated disc.

2. Most herniated discs occur in the lower back
This is due to the fact that the majority of your upper body weight is supported by your lumbar spine in your lower back. Most force and stress are concentrated there, and most motion occurs when you bend and twist. However, a herniated disc can occur anywhere along your spine, including your neck and chest/mid-back.

3. A herniated disc can provoke a lot of pain or be symptomless
Many people who have a herniated disc have no symptoms. Whether or not you experience symptoms is determined by whether or not the disc is pressing against a nerve. The more the disc compresses the nerve, the more severe your symptoms may be—and the location of this action determines where the signs appear in your body.

When you cough, sneeze, shift your body into certain positions or make other sudden movements, the pain from a herniated disc can feel like it's "shooting" into your extremities.

4. While anyone can develop a herniated disc, some people are more prone
Excess body weight, which can put extra pressure on the discs in your lower back, as well as a physically demanding job that requires repetitive motions such as lifting, pulling, pushing, and bending, are risk factors. It's even possible to be predisposed to a herniated disc genetically.

5. Your doctor should be able to diagnose a herniated disc pretty easily with questions and a physical exam, but they may run imaging tests as well
Sometimes, your doctor will simply perform a physical exam to determine which body parts are in pain and how moving in certain ways affects the pain.

If they need more information, they may request imaging tests such as an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or myelogram, which uses dye and X-rays to detect pressure on your spine or nerves.

6. Having a herniated disc doesn’t mean you require surgery
For the majority of people, conservative treatment is sufficient. Over-the-counter pain relievers, anticonvulsants, muscle relaxers, cortisone injections, and even a short course of narcotics for extremely severe pain are all options. If none of these work after a few weeks, your doctor may suggest physical therapy to help alleviate the pain.

If all else fails, you may require surgery to remove the protruding portion of the disc. However, this is not common.

7. There are a few things you can do to lower the odds you’ll get a herniated disc
Achieving a ballet dancer-level posture is a simple way to relieve lower back pain. It all comes down to properly aligning your body.

Your core muscles also contribute to a healthy, stable spine. Regularly strengthening these muscles can help you avoid future herniation. And, hey, look at that—we have a whole treasure trove of core-strengthening exercises right here.

Author's Bio: 

I am Amelia Grant, a journalist, and blogger. I think that information is a great force that is able to change people’s lives for the better. That is why I feel a strong intention to share useful and important things about health self-care, wellness, and other advice that may be helpful for people. Being an enthusiast of a healthy lifestyle that keeps improving my life, I wish the same for everyone.

Our attention to ourselves, to our daily routine and habits, is very important. Things that may seem insignificant, are pieces of a big puzzle called life. I want to encourage people to be more attentive to their well-being, improve every little item of it and become healthier, happier, and stronger. All of us deserve that. And I really hope that my work helps to make the world better.