What is a slipped disc?
A slipped disc is also known as a ruptured disc or herniated disc. They all refer to the same basic issue — one of the discs that cushions the bones of the spine has become damaged, allowing the inner fluid of the disc to leak out of its tough outer shell. This condition can result in localized pain and other symptoms.
How a slipped disc diagnosis is made
A slipped disc can be detected by a physician listening to the patient’s description of symptoms and then by performing a physical examination. Physicians can also order imaging tests (X-rays, CT scans or MRIs) to confirm the diagnosis or to rule out other underlying causes. Diagnosis can take a while because many different conditions can lead to similar pains, making a thorough evaluation necessary.
Typical slipped disc causes
Slipped discs become more common with older age due to the natural breakdown of the elements of the spine. As the discs lose their water content and elasticity, they become more brittle and more likely to be damaged as the body bends and twists. While healthy discs can compress with the force of motion and then spring back into their normal shape when the weight is removed, older and more fragile discs are less flexible and unable to bounce back to their normal shape as easily.
In addition to aging, certain factors can make some people more likely to develop slipped discs, including:
- Participation in high-impact sports
- Suffering automobile accidents or other traumatic events
- Being overweight
- Performing certain repetitive motions, particularly in a work environment
Common slipped disc symptoms
A slipped disc can lead to a range of problems, including pain at the site of the injured disc, as well as radiating pain and other traveling symptoms. Numbness, weakness, burning sensations and other problems can affect seemingly unrelated areas of the body if the leaked fluid from the disc places pressure on a nerve root.
Slipped disc treatment options
Slipped disc treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms experienced by the patient. For some people, the pain caused by a herniated disc is relatively mild. For others, it can be a significant hindrance to daily activities. And for some, it can be downright debilitating. Physicians usually recommend patients begin with conservative treatments, such as a brief period of rest followed by physical therapy and regular exercise. Medications can also help keep down swelling and reduce pain. Some people also receive injections near the site of the herniated disc for short-term relief from symptoms.
When slipped disc surgery should be considered
Many people who have a herniated disc do not require surgery to find relief from their pain. However, for the people whose symptoms are too severe or persistent to be treated with nonsurgical means, surgery may become an option. Beyond the traditional open back spine surgery that many people are familiar with, there is also minimally invasive spine surgery offered by Laser Spine Institute.
If you have a slipped disc and would like to learn about the minimally invasive surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute’s surgery center in Cincinnati, contact us today. We can answer your questions and tell you if you’re a potential candidate for surgery with a no-cost MRI review.*