Ruptured discs can develop anywhere in the spine. Most develop in the lumbar (lower) spine, although the cervical (upper) spine area is also a common location for a ruptured disc. Oftentimes, a ruptured disc develops through wear and tear with age. The discs are made of soft but strong connective tissue and act as a shock absorber for the pressure placed on the neck and back every day. Through a person’s lifetime, these discs gradually lose the elasticity necessary to keep them flexible.
The deterioration of these discs can cause the formation of small cracks to develop in the outer wall, which can further develop into full tears. Pressure from the surrounding vertebrae can then cause the fluid in the core of the discs to be pushed out through the tear and into the spinal column. Less commonly, a rupture can be caused by a sudden traumatic injury such as a car crash. People whose jobs involve prolonged exposure to the regular lifting of heavy items are also prone to disc ruptures.