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Slipped Disc Explained


Slipped Disc

A slipped disc, more correctly referred to as a ruptured, bulging or herniated disc, can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms throughout the neck, back and extremities. The area or areas of the body affected by symptoms depends on the location of the damaged or deteriorating disc within the spine.

For instance, a slipped disc present in the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine can cause pain, muscle weakness, tingling and numbness that radiates from the back to the buttocks, hips, legs and feet. The lumbar region bears more weight than any other part of the spine, and, as such, is the area where intervertebral disc damage most frequently occurs. On the other hand, a person with a herniated disc in the cervical spine, or neck region, may feel slipped disc symptoms in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands.

Slipped disc – no actual slippage occurs

The term “slipped disc” does not intend to imply that the disc has shifted or fallen out of place in any way. Rather, it refers to a disc that has split or ruptured, or whose layered, cartilaginous outer wall has been forced out of its normal boundary. That’s why the more proper terms for slipped discs are bulging discs, herniated discs, ruptured discs, or torn discs.

Slipped discs can occur as intervertebral discs naturally deteriorate with age, or they can be the result of an injury from improper lifting techniques or poor body mechanics. The aging process is by far the most prominent factor in the development of a ruptured disc. Disc degeneration often begins with a gradual reduction in water content within the gel-like nucleus of the disc. Concurrently, the disc’s outer wall becomes brittle and weak. As the disc loses elasticity, it still must endure everyday pressures from the vertebrae above and below it, but a weakened disc is unable to maintain its shape. This stress can reduce the height of the disc, or force the outer wall past its normal boundary. The stress also can create small fissures within the wall, which may develop into ruptures and permit the extrusion of nucleus material.

Rarely does a sudden trauma, such as a fall or automobile accident, cause a herniated disc. However, people who experience traumatic spine injuries as children or teenagers are more likely to develop disc problems later in life.

Slipped disc risk factors

Certain activities put you at greater risk of developing a slipped disc. Smoking or carrying excess body weight can increase your chances of disc weakening. Also, people with physically demanding jobs that require repetitive lifting, bending and twisting or prolonged sitting and standing in the same position may be at greater risk. There also is a hereditary element to the development of a slipped disc. If your parents or grandparents had a spine degeneration that led to bulging or herniated discs, there is a chance that you could develop those conditions as well.

If you have been diagnosed with a slipped disc, your physician will likely prescribe conservative treatments such as rest, pain medication or activity modification. Most people start to experience improved symptoms in just a few months of slipped disc treatment. However, for those patients with severe, limiting pain that persists even after non-surgical treatment, slipped disc surgery may be advised. Laser Spine Institute provides minimally invasive procedures that are tremendously successful at alleviating the symptoms of a slipped disc with a much quicker recovery time than traditional open back surgery. For more information, or to receive a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, contact us today.

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