The vertebrae (bones of the spine) are cushioned by blocks or pads of tissue called disks. These disks are round and flat and made up of 2 parts: the annulus (a tough outer capsule or ring) and the nucleus (an inner, spongy core of jellylike material). When these disks are healthy, they act as shock absorbers for the spine and are essential in keeping the spine flexible. The normal, everyday pressures on the spine force the outer surface to bulge slightly. When these disks are damaged from an injury, normal wear and tear, or disease, they may bulge abnormally or rupture (break open). When a damaged disk bulges abnormally or ruptures, it is called a herniated (slipped) disk. Herniated disks can occur in any part of the spine but most often affect the lumbar spine (lower back). The abnormal disk material can place pressure on the adjacent spinal cord or nerve roots, resulting in pain, numbness, or weakness in areas of the lower back, buttocks, and legs. The November 22/29, 2006, issue of JAMA includes 2 articles about surgery for herniated disks.