A slipped disc is a common term used to describe a form of injury known as a herniated, bulging or ruptured disc. It can cause significant pain and discomfort and in some cases may lead to other serious health problems if ignored. What does a slipped disc actually means, what causes it, associated symptoms and treatment options?

What is a Slipped Disc?

To understand what a slipped disc is, it is essential to understand the spine’s structure. The spinal column is made up of small bones known as vertebrae, which are separated by intervertebral discs that act as shock absorbers. Think of them like a rubbery cushion. Each disc has a soft centre (nucleus pulposus)that is jelly like and a tougher outer layer (annulus fibrosus). When the outer layer is damaged or injured, the soft centre can extend outwards and push through the cartilage, leading to a bulging or herniated disc on the outside of the disc. So a more accurate term is a herniated disk, because nothing actually slips!

Causes

A herniated disc can press on a nearby spinal nerve and can occur due to several reasons. Just as standing on a garden hose can blocks the flow of water, pressure on nerve tissue changes the flow of messages that travel along the nerve. This is why pain is not always felt at the injury site eg a disc herniation in your neck can be felt in your arm.  Some of the most common causes include:

  • Age-Related Wear and Tear: As we age, our discs become less flexible due to moisture loss, making them more susceptible to injury.
  • Trauma: An injury to the spine can cause a herniated disc. This includes falls, accidents and sports injuries.
  • Heavy Lifting: Exerting excessive force while lifting heavy objects can strain the lower back muscles and eventually lead to a slipped disc.
  • Genetics: Some people may have a genetic predisposition to developing herniated discs.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of a slipped disc include:

  1. Pain in the lower back or neck that radiates down to the arms or legs.
  2. Numbness, burning or tingling in the affected area.
  3. Weakness in the muscles of the arms or legs.
  4. Loss of bladder or bowel control in severe cases.

Management

A slipped disc is a serious medical condition that can cause significant pain and discomfort. While age-related degeneration is the most common cause of a herniated disc, it can also occur due to trauma, heavy lifting and genetics. Treatment options may vary depending on the severity of the symptoms, with conservative treatments being the first line of treatment.  A herniated disc may resolve on it’s own this is caused spontaneous resorption. The methods of management for a herniated disc depend on the severity of the symptoms. In most cases, conservative interventions such as rest, physical therapy with one of chiropractors and ice, heat and analgesics may help. Advice from our practitioners on management with exercises and ways to unload the disc and area to help with pain and healing is important. In some cases referral for pain management and surgery in severe cases may be necessary.

Prevention of a herniated disc

As always prevention is the best cure. To limit your risk:

  1. Quit or never start smoking. Smoking damages disks just as it damages tissues
  2. Excercise regularly, keep flexible and strengthen  your core to help maintain good strength and flexibility.
  3. Maintain good posture. Poor posture loads your spine and discs eg text neck when texting, and sitting with poor ergonomic setup in front of a computer.
  4. Learn to lift correctly to reduce the load and pressure on your spine. (see our blog on lifting)

If you are experiencing severe back or neck pain with associated symptoms or have any questions Contact Tweed Coast Chiropractic to receive appropriate management and advice through our chiropractic care.