A prolapsed disc is sometimes called a herniated disc. The bulging disc may press on nearby structures such as a nerve coming from the spinal cord. Some inflammation also develops around the prolapsed part of the disc. Inflammation may irritate a nerve and also causes swelling, which may put pressure on a nerve. Any disc in the spine can prolapse. However, most prolapsed discs occur in the lower back (the lumbar spine). The size of the prolapse can vary. As a rule, the larger the prolapse, the more severe the symptoms are likely to be. Various things may trigger the inner softer part of the disc to squeeze out through the weakened outer part of the disc. For example, sneezing, awkward bending, or heavy lifting in an awkward position may cause some extra pressure on the disc. In people with a weakness in a disc, this may be sufficient to cause a prolapse. Factors that may increase the risk of developing a prolapsed disc include:
- A job involving lots of lifting.
- A job involving lots of sitting (especially driving).
- Weight-bearing sports (weightlifting, etc).
- Being overweight (obesity).
- Increasing age (a disc is more likely to develop a weakness as we become older).