Slipped Disc

Experiencing back pain can be extremely debilitating. It can make it hard to perform everyday activities and can even make it difficult to get a good night's sleep. If you're suffering from back pain, you may be wondering what could be causing it. One possibility is that you have a slipped spinal disc.

In this article, we'll discuss everything you need to know about slipped spinal discs—what they are, what causes them, and how to treat them.

A slipped spinal disc, also known as a herniated disc, can be a very painful condition. It occurs when the soft inner core of the disc bulges out through a tear in the tougher outer layer. This can put pressure on the nerves that run through the spine and cause pain, tingling, or numbness in the affected area.

While a slipped disc can happen to anyone, there are certain factors that can increase your risk, such as age (as discs degenerate with age), obesity (which puts extra pressure on the spine), and smoking (which contributes to disc degeneration).

Luckily, there are a number of treatment options available for those suffering from a slipped disc. In most cases, rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medication are enough to provide relief. However, in more severe cases, physical therapy, epidural injections, and even surgery may be necessary.

Let's take a closer look at all you need to know about slipped spinal discs.

What is a Slipped Spinal Disc?

A slipped spinal disc occurs when the soft inner core of the disc bulges out through a tear in the tougher outer layer. This can put pressure on the nerves that run through the spine and cause pain, tingling, or numbness in the affected area.

Spinal discs act as cushions between the bones in your spine (vertebrae) and help them move smoothly against each other. These discs act as shock absorbers for your spine and help keep the vertebrae in place. A slipped spinal disc, also known as a herniated disc, occurs when one of these discs moves out of position or ruptures. This is because when the inner core of the disc protrudes through the outer layer, it looks like a hernia—a bulge or sac that occurs when an organ or tissue protrudes through an opening in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue.

This can happen due to a sudden injury or simply from degeneration over time.

When a disc slips out of place, it can put pressure on the sensitive nerves surrounding the spine and can cause pain.

What Are The Symptoms of a Slipped Spinal Disc?

The most common symptom of a slipped spinal disc is back pain. However, not all back pain is caused by a herniated disc—in fact, most isn't.

Other common causes of back pain include muscle strain, arthritis, and osteoporosis. So how do you know if your back pain is being caused by a herniated disc? Look out for these symptoms, especially if they continue to reoccur after several weeks:

  • Numbness or weakness in one or both legs

  • Tingling or burning sensations down your leg(s) into your foot/feet

  • Sharp shooting pains that make it difficult to stand up or move around

  • Muscle weakness in your legs

If you experience any of these symptoms along with back pain for an extended period of time, it's possible that you have a herniated disc and should see your doctor for an evaluation.

How Does A Slipped Spinal Disc Occur?

There are several things that can cause a slipped disc. The most common is aging (as discs tend to degenerate with age). Obesity (which puts extra pressure on the spine), smoking (which contributes to disc degeneration), and sudden impact trauma (like a car accident) can also cause a disc to herniate.

Everyday activities such as lifting heavy objects or bending awkwardly can also cause a slipped disc because of the sudden increase in pressure on a certain area of the spine.

And while most people associate herniated discs with lower back pain, they can actually occur anywhere along the spine—from the neck down to the tailbone—although they're most common in the lower back region.

Do I Need Surgery For My Slipped Disc?

In most cases, nonsurgical treatment options such as rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medication will be enough to relieve the pain associated with a slipped spinal disc.

Treatment Options For A Slipped Spinal Disc

In most cases, nonsurgical treatment options such as rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medication will be enough to relieve the pain associated with a slipped spinal disc. Discs are capable of healing and usually do within six weeks to three months.

However, if your symptoms don't improve after several weeks of at-home care or if they become worse over time, it's important to see your doctor for further treatment options.

Some of these options include:

  • Physical therapy: Exercises specifically designed to stretch and strengthen muscles in order to relieve pressure on the spine

  • Epidural steroid injections: Steroid injections directly into the site of pain in order to reduce inflammation

  • Surgery: In very rare cases where conservative treatments haven't worked and nerve damage has occurred, surgery may be necessary to remove part of the damaged disc

Conclusion

Living with back pain can be extremely difficult—but if you think you may have a herniated disc, there is hope.

While most cases will improve on their own within six weeks to three months with at-home care such as rest and over-the-counter medication, more severe cases may require physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, or even surgery.

A slipped spinal disc can be a very painful condition—but luckily there are many treatment options available ranging from at-home care to surgery. If you suspect that you may have a disc that has herniated, schedule a consultation with your neurosurgeon so they can properly diagnose and treat your condition.

Schedule a Consultation With A Neurosurgeon

  1. Have you had an MRI of your neck or back?
Atlantic Brain and Spine A graduate of both Yale and Stanford, Dr. Jae Lim is a board-certified spine surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery and robotic spine surgery, significantly reducing surgical impact and recovery times. (703) 876-4270
8501 Arlington Blvd. Suite 330
Fairfax
Virgina
22031
United States
Jae Y. Lim Ben L. Nguyen