Each vertebrae of the spine is separated by a cushion called an intervertebral disc. If enough pressure is placed on the vertebrae, the tough membrane of the disc can become torn (ruptured disc). If the interior substance of the disc squeezes out through the tear, the disc is hernitated. Disc injuries can cause further problems by placing pressure on the spinal cord. The result is extreme pain in the area of the injury, and pressure on the spinal cord can cause numbness in the pelvis and legs, muscle weakness, or partial paralysis. Approximately 80% of herniated discs are in the lumbar spine.
Many cases of bulging discs recover with rest, ice and pain relievers. On occasion, surgery may be required to remove part or all of the disc and/or part of the vertebra. In a study of 67 young adults who underwent a discectomy for lumbar disc hernitation, 82% were able to participate in sporting activities pain-free and at the same level of intensity as before the inital injury (Dollinger et al., 2008).
There is some evidence to suggest that a history of disc herniation may predispose the dancer to other injuries. In a case study involving a 35 year old male principle dancer (Henry, 2008), a strained calf may have been associated with hypermobility in the L5-S1 joint and history of chronic lower back pain (both attributed to an earlier disc herniation).
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