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HNP Causes — Common Reasons for a Herniated Nucleus Pulposus

A herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP) causes many patients to experience aches and pains in the neck and back. This spinal condition occurs when the jellylike center (nucleus pulposus) of an intervertebral disc seeps through a tear in the tough exterior (annulus fibrosus) and into the spinal column.

While there are several factors that can lead to developing a herniated disc, there are two main causes:

  • Age — An HNP typically occurs as the result of a degenerative condition that can develop as a patient ages. Our necks and backs receive continued stress and pressure from the weight of our bodies, and this can cause intervertebral discs to break down (or degenerate) over time.
  • Overexertion — This spinal condition can also occur in younger patients who are overweight, participate in high-impact sports or continually lift heavy objects.


An HNP causes most patients to feel pain in the affected area of the neck or back. The degree of pain may vary from patient to patient, with some not experiencing any discomfort at all. For those who are symptomatic, though, the pain sometimes worsens during physical activities or while sitting, coughing or leaning forward. Numbness, a “pins and needles” feeling and weakness may also occur due to HNP.


Many patients benefit from conservative treatments, including hot and/or cold compresses, over-the-counter pain medications, weight loss and moderate exercise. Patients should always consult a physician before beginning a diet or exercise program. Likewise, a physician or pharmacist should advise patients before over-the-counter pain medications are taken to ensure no drug interactions or serious complications will occur.

Some patients may receive little relief from conservative treatments for HNP. Causes, including degenerative disc disease and arthritis of the spine, can sometimes be treated with the minimally invasive procedures performed at USA Spine Care. Our procedures require a small incision and are an effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. Contact USA Spine Care to learn more about the benefits of minimally invasive back surgery.

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