Natural wear on the spine can cause a disc to rupture, but injury, obesity, sedentary lifestyles and improper lifting increase the risk of developing the condition, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states. Occupations that require repetitive lifting, bending or twisting also increase susceptibility to spinal damage.
The spinal column is a collection of bones that form a protective sheath around the delicate spinal cord and nerves connected to the brain, according to MedlinePlus. Spinal discs separate sections of bone known as vertebrae, providing cushioning and flexibility. Excessive strain on the spine can cause a disc to slide out of place and create a herniation or to burst open and cause a rupture.
Spinal discs are roughly 0.5 inch in thickness and are made up of two sections: a flexible, fibrous outer ring and a jelly-like nucleus, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains. During the aging process, discs naturally lose a portion of their fluid, becoming more dry and worn out. When the nucleus pushes through a section of the outer ring, the resulting pressure often compresses the nerves or spinal cord, leading to lower back pain, sciatica, and numbness, pain and tingling in the feet and legs. Continued pressure from recurrent strain or injury can cause the nucleus to break through completely and trigger inflammation in spinal nerves exposed to the jelly-like substance.