Disc herniation is usually due to age-related degeneration of the outer ring, known as the anulus fibrosus, although trauma, lifting injuries, or straining have been implicated as well.
Tears are almost always postero-lateral (on the back of the sides) owing to the presence of the posterior longitudinal ligament in the spinal canal. This tear in the disc ring may result in the release of chemicals causing inflammation, which may directly cause severe pain even in the absence of nerve root compression.
Symptoms of a herniated disc can vary depending on the location of the herniation and the types of soft tissue that become involved. They can range from little or no pain if the disc is the only tissue injured, to severe and unrelenting neck pain or low back pain that will radiate into the regions served by affected nerve roots that are irritated or impinged by the herniated material. Often, herniated discs are not diagnosed immediately, as the patients come with undefined pains in the thighs, knees, or feet.