A ruptured, or herniated, disk occurs when one of the cushions between the bones of the vertebrae in the spine becomes damaged, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some of the softer tissue, resembling jelly, pushes through a crack in the thicker exterior, effectively rupturing the disk.
A ruptured disk can irritate neighboring nerves and create pain, weakness or numbness in an arm or leg, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although many people have no symptoms of a herniated disk, others have extreme pain associated with the ruptured disk. A ruptured disk is most often caused by disk degeneration, which is normal, age-related wear and tear on the spine.