A herniated or ruptured disc can occur as the result of an injury or natural wear and tear on the spine. Symptoms may include dull or sharp pain, muscle spasm or cramping, sciatica and leg weakness or loss of leg function. Pain is caused when the damaged disc pushes into the spinal canal, compressing the nerves.
The drawings below represent the appearance of a herniated or ruptured disc. Both drawings show the disruption of the annulus fibrosus, the outer ring-like portion of an intervertebral disc.
The tissue located in the center of the intervertebral disc, the nucleus pulposus, is partially extruded from the intervertebral disc. The extruded nucleus pulposus material can exert pressure on nerves thus causing pain, numbness, and muscle weakness due to nerve damage.