Slipped Discs – A Comprehensive Guide

Slipped Disc Overview

If you have been diagnosed with a slipped disc, you may be confused about the information you found upon researching this condition. A slipped disc is a term often used to describe various types of damaged discs within the spine. Such as a herniated disc, torn disc, ruptured disc, or bulging disc. 

Since “slipped disc” is a commonly used term for these degenerative spine conditions. it’s understandable to feel a little overwhelmed at the prospect of finding real answers about your condition and what you can do for pain relief. 

At BEST Health System, we believe you should be inform yourself about your spine condition. This will allow you can make a confident decision about your treatment options. Read through our comprehensive guide to understanding a slipped disc. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us. 

Definition of a Slipped Disc

“Slipped disc” is a nonmedical and potentially misleading term used to describe a common degenerative spine condition. This term is deceptive because disc slippage is usually not involved; instead, in some cases, a firm outer shell of the spinal disc is forced outside of its normal boundary. 

In other cases, a disc will be said to “slip” if it develops a tear in its thick, multilayered wall. This tear can begin from the inside of the disc and work its way outward. Alternatively, a disc can open on the outside due to an injury or weak spot. 

If a disc tear happens, some of the disc’s gel-like inner core material can potentially escape the confines of the disc wall. This will cause it to seep into the spinal canal. Also known as herniated, ruptured, or bulging disc, slipped discs can occur in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions of the spine. 

Slipped Disc Symptoms

A slipped disc does not always cause symptoms. In general, discomfort arises only if displaced soft tissue irritates the damaged disc wall. As well as if it compresses a sensitive spinal nerve root or the spinal cord itself. 

The nature and location of the symptoms will depend on the site of the damaged disc. For instance, a slipped disc in the lumbar spine can cause pain, tingling, numbness, muscle weakness, and spasms. These symptoms can radiate from the lower back through the buttocks, hips, legs, and feet. In other cases, a damaged disc in the cervical spine can lead to slipped disc symptoms in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. 

Slipped discs and other degenerative spine conditions often affect the lumbar regions of the spine. These regions support much of the body’s weight. Therefore it’s especially prone to damage from the effects of ongoing wear and tear

Some alternative terms for the condition – such as bulging discs, herniated discs, ruptured discs, and torn discs – are far more descriptive of what actually occurs within the spine when a disc is damaged. 

Causes of a Slipped Disc

In most cases, a slipped disc results from the cumulative effects of ongoing wear and tear on the spinal anatomy. As part of the natural aging process, the discs gradually lose water content and elasticity. This is problematic because, in order to function properly, the discs must be supple and pliable. 

A well-hydrated and flexible disc can effectively cushion the adjacent spinal vertebrae and support a wide range of motion. Conversely, a dry and brittle disc will lose height and elasticity, making it more susceptible to further damage from the continual stress of daily activities. 

Even mild pressure on a compromised disc can force its outer wall past its normal boundary, which is a bulging disc. Stress can also lead to the formation of small tears that gradually worsen and herniate, or form a rupture that results in a ruptured or herniated disc. 

Sometimes injuries resulting from a forceful, direct blow to the spine can lead to the sudden onset of a slipped disc. Also, people who experience traumatic spine injuries as children or teenagers tend to be more likely to develop disc problems later in life. 

Risk Factors for Developing a Slipped Disc

While aging is unavoidable, certain lifestyle factors – such as having poor posture, regularly lifting heavy objects, participating in high-impact sporting activities, smoking, and carrying excess body weight – can accelerate the spinal degeneration process. Workers in occupations that require repetitive lifting, bending, and twisting. In general, the level of risk increases along with the length of time an individual performs such work. 

Additionally, some individuals are genetically predisposed to developing degenerative spine conditions such as a slipped disc. 

Slipped Disc Treatments

If you’ve been diagnosed with a slipped disc, your doctor will likely prescribe conservative treatments such as rest, pain medication, or lifestyle changes to begin with. These nonsurgical slipped disc treatments can be highly effective at controlling pain and discomfort and can help many patients avoid the need for slipped disc surgery.

 In most cases, doctors will recommend a combination of conservative options for the first few weeks of slipped disc treatment, using a process of trial and error to identify a plan that works for each individual patient. The most common conservative treatment options include:

  • Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers. These drugs either increase the body’s pain threshold so that a person must experience more pain than usual for the body to register the sensation, or block the enzymes that produce pain-sensing chemicals in the body.  
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Both options can help reduce swelling, in turn relieving pressure on an irritated nerve or compressed nerve root. While over-the-counter options like ibuprofen can be taken for a longer period of time, oral steroids are usually only prescribed for a one or two-week cycle. 
  • Physical Therapy and Exercise. An experienced physical therapist can create an individualized plan of stretching and exercise to help you minimize the slipped disc symptoms. For instance, a physical therapist may recommend core strengthening and stability exercises along with stretches to increase flexibility and range of motion. 
  • Lifestyle Changes. While the activities recommended by a physical therapist can be helpful, certain everyday activities may make the pain of a slipped disc worse. For example, lifting heavy objects or sitting for prolonged periods can exacerbate neck and back pain. Limiting these activities can help minimize discomfort. 
  • Heat Therapy or Cold Therapy. Applying heat or ice to the area where the slipped disc is located can lead to short-term relief. This can be repeated as needed. 
  • Epidural Steroid Injections. This slipped disc treatment is often suggested after other conservative therapies but before surgery. During an epidural steroid injection, a longer-lasting corticosteroid and a shorter-term numbing agent are injected directly into the epidural space of the spine. One injection may provide adequate relief for slipped disc symptoms. Some patients may receive a series of injections over a period of a few weeks or months. However, physicians typically limit the number of injections a patient can receive over the course of a year. This is because repeated injections can cause complications. 

Your doctor might also recommend certain lifestyle changes when he or she diagnoses you with a slipped disc. For instance, most patients are advised to maintain a healthy weight. Such as carrying excess weight can increase the amount of strain placed on the spine. You should exercise regularly is recommended, although you should choose activities that do not involve heavy lifting or impact on the spine. 

Surgery for a Slipped Disc

Most people start to experience improved symptoms after just a few months of slipped disc treatment. However, if you continue to experience severe, limiting pain that persists after nonsurgical treatment, you may need to consider slipped disc surgery. BEST Health System provides outpatient, minimally invasive spine surgery that addresses the symptoms of a slipped disc. This eliminates the need for traditional open-back surgery. 

BEST Health System Can Help

If you are interested in learning more about the surgical options available through BEST Health System, contact us today. Our team provides patients with a less invasive, more effective alternative to traditional surgery. Start your path to recovery today.