How do I know if I slipped a disc in my lower back?

A disc that loses its proper alignment in the spinal column is commonly referred to as a slipped disc. Although technically the disc has not slipped out of place, a portion of the disc may be protruding into the spinal canal where it doesn’t belong and rubbing against the spinal cord or an adjacent nerve. Or, in some instances, the disc’s failure to properly support the vertebrae and other components of the spine may lead to surrounding tissues pressing against a nerve. No matter how the nerve compression occurs, it can cause debilitating symptoms including pain, numbness and muscle weakness.

A slipped disc usually results from the aging process, although an injury can cause the condition to occur even in young people. Spinal discs are made up of a tough outer ring that encircles a gel-like material, which has a high water content. Over time, the disc will gradually dehydrate and its elasticity will diminish. This puts an individual at risk of developing a slipped disc, which medical professionals are more likely to refer to as a bulging disc or a herniated disc. The lower back, or lumbar region, is a common location for a slipped disc because of the wear and tear this part of the spine endures as it facilitates the many bending, twisting and lifting motions that people perform every day.

Symptoms of a slipped disc in the lower back

If you think you may have a slipped disc, it’s important to consult with your doctor. The symptoms of a slipped disc in the lower back can be relatively mild, excruciatingly painful or, in rare cases, so severe that they could cause permanent damage without immediate medical attention. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis from your doctor or a spine specialist is the key to finding a treatment plan that will help you feel better and resume your normal lifestyle.

Some of the common symptoms of a slipped lumbar disc include:

  • Pain, numbness, tingling sensations and muscle weakness at the degenerating disc site
  • Symptoms that radiate into your buttocks, legs and feet, frequently on one side
  • A condition known as foot drop, which makes it difficult to lift a foot when walking
  • Difficulty sitting for more than a few minutes

Once you have been diagnosed with a bulging or herniated disc, your doctor will likely provide you with a conservative treatment plan that includes pain medication, stretching exercises and ice and/or heat therapy. Many people use methods like these to achieve sufficient relief from their symptoms. Others may need to consider surgery as a treatment option.

If you’re considering surgery to treat your slipped disc symptoms, make sure you explore the minimally invasive outpatient surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ We’ll be pleased to tell you more about our state-of-the-art outpatient center and also provide you with a free MRI review* to help determine if you’re a candidate for our procedures. Contact Laser Spine Institute today for more information.