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Common Spine and Disk Problems

The most common serious back problems happen when disks tear, bulge, or rupture. In such cases, an injured disk can no longer cushion the vertebrae and absorb shock. As a result, the rest of your spine may also weaken. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.

Top view of lumbar vertebra and disk showing tear in annulus.

Top view of lumbar vertebra showing contained herniated disk.

Top view of lumbar vertebra with extruded herniated disk.

Side view of lumbar spine showing bone spurs.

Side view of lumbar spine showing one vertebra slipping forward and pressing on nerve.

Side view of lumbar spine showing one vertebra slipping forward and pressing on nerve.

  • Torn annulus. A sudden movement may cause a tiny tear in an annulus. Nearby ligaments may stretch.

  • Contained herniated disk. As a disk wears out, the nucleus may bulge into the annulus and press on nerves.

  • Extruded herniated disk. When a disk ruptures, its nucleus can squeeze out and irritate a nerve.

  • Arthritis. As disks wear out over time, bone spurs form. These growths can irritate nerves and inflame facets.

  • Instability. As a disk stretches, the vertebrae slip back and forth. This can put pressure on the annulus.

  • Spondylolisthesis. This is a condition in which one vertebra has moved forward or backward, in relation to the one above or below it. This causes a crack (stress fracture) in the areas that link the vertebrae together. This may put pressure on the annulus, stretch the disk, and irritate nerves.

© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.