Slipped disc FAQ — frequently asked questions

Laser Spine Institute offers the following answers to commonly asked questions about slipped discs:

Q: What is a slipped disc?

A: Slipped disc is a commonly used term for a herniated disc in the spine. This condition occurs when the outer shell of a spinal disc ruptures, causing the softer inner material to be pushed out into the spinal column.

Q: What causes a slipped disc?

A. In most cases, a slipped disc develops due to age-related degeneration of the spine. Disc degeneration typically begins with a gradual reduction in the water content of a disc’s gel-like nucleus. At the same time, the outer wall of the disc can become brittle and weak. As the disc loses flexibility, it is less able to withstand the ongoing pressure that is naturally on it exerted by the vertebrae situated above and below it. This undue stress can cause the disc to lose its shape or force its outer wall beyond its normal boundary. The stress can also create small tears within the disc wall, which can progress into ruptures that allow the extrusion of inner disc material.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. A slipped disc can be completely asymptomatic. In some cases, the herniation will cause disc pain because the inner core material is irritating nerve endings in the disc’s outer wall. Generally, the condition causes the most serious problems when the inner disc material leaks out and presses on a nearby nerve root or the spinal cord itself. This excess pressure can prevent the affected nerve tissue from properly transmitting impulses to and from the brain, which can cause symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, weakness and muscle spasms. These symptoms can vary in location and intensity based on the region of the body affected by that nerve.

Q. What are some treatment options?

A. After diagnosing a slipped disc, a physician will typically prescribe conservative treatments such as limited rest, pain medications, physical therapy and lifestyle changes. In many cases, the symptoms improve within a few weeks or months. Patients who experience severe pain that persists despite nonsurgical treatment might be advised to consider surgical intervention. At Laser Spine Institute, our board-certified surgeons perform minimally invasive procedures that provide many advantages over traditional open spine surgery.

Q. Will I need surgery?

A. If you are dealing with debilitating symptoms that have not responded adequately to weeks or months of conservative treatment, you might be a surgical candidate. Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive procedures use a less than 1-inch incision and are performed on an outpatient basis, leading to less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.

Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.