A prolapsed disc is a condition that is commonly referred to in several different ways, including a ruptured disc, a herniated disc and a slipped disc. All of these terms are used interchangeably to indicate that a portion of a disc’s gel-like nuclear material has leaked out into the spinal canal through a tear or split in the disc’s layered, cartilaginous outer wall. This condition can occur at any level of the spine, but it is most frequently found in the lower back, where the lumbar vertebrae and discs bear much of the body’s weight, and where the body’s ongoing movements produce significant stress on the spine over time.
Disc degeneration often occurs in several stages, and disc prolapse takes place at a relatively early stage. When a disc becomes thinner, drier or weaker due to age or injury, it can begin to protrude beyond its normal position between the vertebrae. This condition can eventually lead to a full herniation, or tearing, of the disc’s outer wall and the subsequent extrusion of nuclear material.