Although people often refer to a herniated disc as a slipped disc, the disc doesn’t actually slip out of place. Rather, the term herniation means that the material at the center of the disc has squeezed out of its normal space. This condition can happen to a worker on the job from a single traumatic lifting or twisting incident, or it can occur from job duties over time even without any single reported injury or accident.
The human spine is formed by 24 spinal bones, called vertebrae. Vertebrae are stacked on top of one another to form the spinal column. The spinal column gives the body its form. It is the body’s main upright support. The section of the spine in the lower back is known as the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine is made up of the lower five vertebrae. Doctors often refer to these vertebrae as L1 to L5. These five vertebrae line up to give the low back a slight inward curve. The lowest vertebra of the lumbar spine, L5, connects to the top of the sacrum, a triangular bone at the base of the spine that fits between the two pelvic bones. Some people have an extra, or sixth, lumbar vertebra. This condition doesn’t usually cause any particular problems.
Intervertebral discs separate the vertebrae. The discs are like jelly doughnuts. The discs are made of connective tissue. Connective tissue is the material that holds the living cells of the body together. Most connective tissue is made of fibers of a material called collagen. These fibers help the disc withstand tension and pressure.
A disc is made of two parts. The center, called the nucleus, is spongy. It provides most of the disc’s ability to absorb shock. The nucleus is held in place by the annulus, a series of strong ligament rings surrounding it. Ligaments are connective tissues that attach bones to other bones.
Healthy discs work like shock absorbers to cushion the spine. They protect the spine against the daily pull of gravity. They also protect it during strenuous activities that put strong force on the spine, such as jumping, running, and lifting.
When, under pressure from a heavy lift or just from repetitive job movements, the nucleus escapes the center and pushes the annulus out, it is referred to as a bulging disc. If the nucleus pushes all the way out of the annulus covering, then it is a herniated disc.
Work-related herniated discs can provide the basis for workers compensation benefits including temporary disability, permanent partial disability and loss of earnings. McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin gets the best results in workers compensation cases when the physician supports the claim.