What does it mean when you have a slipped disc?

“Slipped disc” is a catch-all term for a number of degenerative disc conditions. If you have a slipped disc, it generally means you have a spinal disc that is somehow protruding into the spinal canal where it doesn’t belong and causing nerve irritation, which can lead to pain and muscle weakness. In most cases, a person with a slipped disc has what medical professionals would call a bulging disc or a herniated disc.

To better understand what’s happening with your spine, it helps to become familiar with the role and composition of spinal discs. These supple, saucer-shaped components of the spine are located between the vertebrae and serve as shock absorbers that facilitate everyday movements such as bending and twisting. Each disc is composed of a tough outer layer and a gel-like inner material.

Over time, or sometimes because of an injury, spinal discs will lose some of their water content and become flatter and less able to do their job. This may weaken the outer shell of a disc so that it pushes outside of its normal boundary and into the spinal canal, thus causing a bulging disc. Sometimes a disc’s outer shell will actually tear, or rupture, and allow some of its contents to leach into the spinal canal, thus creating a condition known as a herniated disc. In either case, if the disc material rubs against the spinal cord or a nearby nerve, it can cause debilitating symptoms at the nerve compression site and other parts of the body along the pathway of the pinched nerve.

What to do if you have a slipped disc

If you believe you may be experiencing the symptoms of a slipped disc, it’s important to consult with a doctor to obtain an accurate diagnosis. This is the first step toward finding relief from your symptoms. Once your doctor has identified your bulging or herniated disc, he or she may refer you to a spine specialist or provide you with a treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms. Your treatment plan is likely to include:

  • Gentle stretching exercises — designed to relieve nerve compression at the slipped disc site
  • Prescription or over-the-counter medications — to relieve pain and reduce inflammation
  • Lifestyle changes — including adopting better posture and a healthy weight management strategy

Conservative remedies like these have helped many people find relief from their slipped disc symptoms. However, if your condition doesn’t improve or even worsens after several weeks or months of pursuing conservative therapy, you may start thinking about surgery as a treatment option. If so, make sure you consider the possibility of minimally invasive outpatient surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is often clinically appropriate and provides many advantages versus open neck or back surgery.^

We’ll be glad to tell you more about the benefits of our minimally invasive procedures and also provide you with a free MRI review* that can help determine whether you’re a candidate for treatment at Laser Spine Institute. Contact us today to get started.