What is a slipped disc? Guide to risk factors and treatment

By Michael Perry, M.D.

The term slipped disc is a common nonmedical term for disc conditions including a herniated disc — a condition where a disc develops a tear in its outer wall, causing inner material to be pushed out. A herniated disc has the potential for causing mild to severe pain and reduced flexibility and mobility if it presses into a local nerve root in the spinal canal.

Understanding what causes slipped disc can help you take the steps necessary to improve your spine health and possibly avoid the development of this condition.

Risk factors of slipped discs

Degenerative disc disease, an age-related condition in which the outer structure of the disc gradually weakens due to aging, contributes to the likelihood of a slipped disc. Certain lifestyle factors, such as obesity and smoking, increase one’s susceptibility to developing this condition. People with jobs that require repetitive lifting, twisting, bending or even prolonged standing or sitting are also at greater risk.

The discs in the spine are strong, soft cushions between the vertebrae. They help absorb the shock of everyday impacts, including running, walking and moving, that could cause damage to the vertebrae if unprotected. In order to maintain the proper support for the spinal column, the tough, elastic outer layer of the disc constantly holds the inner disc fluid in place.

Over time, discs are repeatedly put under pressure by natural daily activity. As the elasticity in the outer disc layer wears down due to continual pressure from movement and weight gain, the disc can develop tears and rips, ultimately allowing the inner disc fluid to leak out of the disc and into the spinal canal in some cases.

Making certain lifestyle changes can help reduce the pressure placed on your discs and possibly help you avoid or postpone the development of disc damage. These changes can include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Increase core strength
  • Stop smoking or excessive drinking of alcohol
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Stretch daily

Conservative treatment options

Physicians normally prescribe a conservative treatment plan for slipped discs including rest, pain medication, application of heat and changes in activities. Typically, slipped disc patients improve within a few months of beginning treatment. Some patients, however, experience continually severe and debilitating pain and must consider surgery.

If you have been diagnosed with a slipped disc and a conservative treatment plan has not relieved your symptoms, Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive spine surgery that can help treat your slipped or herniated disc.

Minimally invasive spine surgery

Minimally invasive spine surgery offers patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ Because our surgery involves a minimally invasive approach to the spine, our patients can experience a lower risk of complication compared to traditional spine surgery. Our outpatient decompression and stabilization procedures both aim to reduce the pressure on the pinched nerve by removing some or all of the damaged disc.

For more information about our procedures and to find out if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, please contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a no-cost review* of your MRI or CT scan.