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A herniated disk may occur suddenly, such as with a fall or an accident, or it may occur gradually with repetitive straining of the spine. When a herniated disk occurs, the space for the nerves is diminished and nerve irritation results. The cause of a herniated disk injury often can be identified if someone develops severe arm pain or neck pain immediately after an accident or when lifting a heavy object.
Most people with a disk injury do not recall a specific event that provoked their pain, and the cause cannot be determined. People who perform heavy labor and use proper lifting techniques or play sports have nearly the same rate of injury as people who do not.