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How Do I Know If I’ve Got a Slipped Disc?

herniated disc illustrationWhat is a slipped disc?

First, let’s note what a slipped disc actually is. A herniated disc happens when the soft cushion of tissue between the bones in your spine (or, not so often, the neck) pushes out. It can be quite painful if this tissue presses on nerves.

However, usually, it does get slowly better with proper rest, gentle exercise and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

Here are the most common signs of a slipped disc, also called a bulging or herniated disc:

  • Low back pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the shoulders, back, arms, hands, legs or feet
  • Neck pain
  • Problems bending or straightening up
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain in the buttocks, hips or legs (when the disc is pressing on the sciatic nerve)

This variation in symptoms varies depending on the position and size of the herniated disc. If it’s not pressing on a nerve, you may only experience a low backache or possibly no pain. But, if it is pressing on a nerve, there may well be pain, numbness or weakness in that area of the body where the nerve travels to. In most cases, a herniated disc is signaled by low back pain or a history of sporadic episodes of low back pain.

What causes a slipped disc?

It’s possible that a single strain or injury can be the cause, but the fact is that disc material degenerates as we age, and the ligaments that hold it in place also begin to get weaker. And, as this is all taking place, even a minor strain or twisting movement can cause a disc to rupture.

What are the treatments?

Most often, if you are displaying the symptoms of a slipped disc, your doctor is likely to advise that you take it easy and allow time for the spinal nerve inflammation to subside. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication will be prescribed if the pain is only mild to moderate.

It could be that physical therapy is recommended. There are approaches they take that designed to help those with slipped discs.

Should your symptoms remain for several weeks and do not seem to respond to conservative treatment approaches, you may need surgery.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, every year, up to 2% of people get a herniated disk, the leading cause of neck and/or arm, and back and/or leg pain (sciatica). But, while slipped discs are common they should be considered seriously. The best course of action is to make an appointment with your physician and get yourself on the right path to feeling better again.






*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery