What is a slipped disc, prolapsed disc and herniated disc?

If you have done research to determine what the chronic pain in your lower back could be, you’ve likely come across the terms slipped disc, prolapsed disc and herniated disc. While it may seem like these terms all refer to different conditions, slipped disc is often used to describe the same condition as a prolapsed disc and a herniated disc. These three terms all describe a disc in the spine that is damaged, often due to age or injury.

Herniated disc is the accepted medical term for a spinal disc that tears, causing inner material to be pushed into the spinal column. Slipped disc is a more informal term often used to describe this condition while a prolapsed disc is sometimes used by doctors to describe an early-stage herniated disc .

Definition of a slipped disc, prolapsed disc and herniated disc

A slipped disc — as well as a prolapsed disc and a herniated disc — is a disc in the spine that has torn open under the pressure of the surrounding vertebrae. The purpose of a spinal disc is to cushion and support the vertebrae of the spine, allowing them to pivot and absorb impact without damaging the delicate nerve structures in the spinal column. As outside factors, such as aging, weight gain and repetitive motion, place pressure on the spine, the elastic outer layer of the disc can begin to lose its elasticity. Over time, the outer layer can tear open under the constant pressure and allow the inner disc fluid to leak into the spinal canal. This is called a slipped disc, prolapsed disc, ruptured disc and also a herniated disc.

If the disc fluid puts pressure on a spinal nerve, painful symptoms can develop, preventing you from completing daily activities like household chores and hobbies.

What to do if you suspect you have a slipped disc

If you suspect you have a slipped disc based on your pain and other symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor for a confirmed diagnosis. Your doctor will perform a series of physical tests, and may also order an MRI or CT scan, before determining if a slipped disc is the cause of your pain.

Once a slipped disc is correctly diagnosed, your doctor can discuss the nonsurgical and surgical treatments available to you. If you are recommended for slipped disc surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open neck and back surgery, and our patients experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complications comparatively. Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.