Slipped Disc Causes & Treatment
The term “slipped disc” is a kind of slang for accepted medical terms that relate to disc disorders that rarely include slipping. The term has become popular in non-medical articles and social media posts, but disc slippage is rarely, if ever, involved. More often than not this phrase actually refers to a herniated or bulging disc pushing into nerve endings nearby. So with “slipped disc” being such a commonly used term for many conditions, how can you tell when you need treatment and when you can expect pain relief?
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What is a Slipped Disc?
This discs in your spine are round, and flat at the top and bottom. They reside securely between the vertebrae and provide some shock absorption fo the spine. Each disc also acts as a pivot point and provides both stability and range of motion in the lower back and neck. The outer wall of a disc is fibrous and the internal is akin to jelly — when we’re explaining discs to our patients, we often use the visual metaphor of a jelly donut.
In some cases a disc is said to have “slipped” when the firm outer shell of a 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 outer wall. Also known as a herniated, ruptured or bulging disc, these conditions can occur in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar structure of the spine.
Illustration of a “Slipped Disc,” also known as a Herniated Disc
Slipped Disc Symptoms
Symptoms of a disc injury are usually related to compression of the spinal cord or a nerve root by displaced disc material. These symptoms can include:
- Local aching and pain
- Shooting pain into the upper or lower extremities
- Radiating symptoms like tingling, numbness and muscle weakness