Slipped/Prolapsed Disc

slipped Disc

The human spine is made up small bones called the vertebrae with a strong rubber-like padding in-between each bone called the disc. These intervertebral discs are protective shock-absorbing pads in between the spinal bones and help the spine remain flexible. These discs are made up of strong fibrous material on the outside with a softer jelly-like center called the nucleus pulposus.

Additionally strong ligaments attach onto to the spinal bone to give it more support; various muscles attach onto these group of bones on various points. The spine has a hollow center and contains the spinal cord through which nerves run to connect the brain to the rest of the body.

When a painful catastrophe such as a slipped or ‘prolapsed’ disc happens, the disc doesn’t actually slip, but rather bulges (herniates), splits or ruptures, allowing the jelly portion of the disc to escape into the surrounding tissue. Aside from producing local inflammation at the site of the herniation, the bulging disc may also produce pressure on nearby nerves, thereby creating pain, numbness or weakness to the area supplied by that specific nerve. A slipped disc usually occurs where the tissue is abnormal, injured or degenerated.

A prolapsed disc may also be called a herniated disc and though any disc can prolapse, it’s usually common in the lower back area. Majority of the people who have herniated disc do not need surgery and some even get away without experiencing any form of pain at all! However, when the disc does press on some nerve, the following are a few of the symptoms that may arise:

  • Weakness in one or both legs.
  • Tingling or numbness in one leg, extending from the buttock to the thigh, back of knee, ankle or foot.
  • Pain from the buttock to leg, ankle or foot as a result of pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Severe deep muscle pain or spasms.

In most cases, the symptoms resolve by themselves after a few weeks with the bulging portion of the disc slowly regressing; the symptoms also recede accordingly. However in 1 in 10 cases, the pain worsens and surgery is considered.

Factors that increase the risk of a prolapsed disc include jobs that involve a lot of sitting or lifting heavy objects, obesity and smoking, weight-bearing sports as well as that unavoidable factor known as ageing!

Treatments for slipped disc include exercising, using painkillers regularly or going for physiotherapy.  Surgery is a last-case scenario and involves removal of the prolapsed portion of the disc.

Evidence however shows that the best way to be free of back pain is to get physically active and get involved in walking, swimming or running as your body deems fit!

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