A slipped disc, also called a herniated or prolapsed disc is an incredibly painful condition that is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 50. It occurs when one of the spine’s discs ruptures causing the gel from inside the disc to leak out. This can lead to pain in not only the back but also in other areas of the body. Slipped discs usually occur in the lower back rather than higher up as this is where most strain is placed on the vertebrae. Once the disc ruptures a long recovery period of up to six weeks is usually needed.
Slipped Disc Symptoms
Some people who experience a rupture have no obvious slipped disc symptoms however most people will experience pain in some form or another. This pain usually begins in the lower back and then spreads out to other areas of the body. The pain is usually caused by the disc pressing onto a nerve and this can lead to other conditions such as sciatica and cauda equina syndrome. These conditions have a variety of symptoms which include:
- A tingling sensation in one or both legs
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle paralysis
- An increase in pain when you sit down, sneeze or cough
- Loss of bladder control
If you experience any of the slipped disc symptoms listed above it is highly important that you contact your GP immediately.
Slipped Disc Causes
A slipped disc occurs when the connective tissue surrounding the disc breaks down which in turn enables the gel like inner of the disc to leak and swell outwards. It is not always clear why this happens with most said to occur due to wear as we get older. There are a few direct slipped disc causes however and these include:
- Taking part in awkward or heavy lifting
- Bending awkwardly
- Participating in sports such as weight lifting which involve bearing high levels of weight
- Spending a lot of time sitting down
- Being overweight
- Having a traumatic injury that causes back or neck problems such as a car accident
Much of the causes above can weaken the tissue in the discs which can lead to both a slipped disc in lower back and a slipped disc in neck.
Slipped Disc Treatment
In most cases the main slipped disc treatment is six weeks of rest with an increase in daily mobility. This is because most slipped discs will eventually repair themselves if they are not further aggravated. A combination of massage therapy, light exercise and pain medication are also often advised in order to speed up the healing time. Swimming is a very good form of light exercise to take part in as it puts little strain on the joints yet encourages the muscles surrounding your spine to stay active.
In the more severe cases slipped disc surgery may be required especially if the treatments described above do not work or if the slipped disc symptoms you experience are particularly bad. This can be done in a variety of ways including:
- Open discectomy
- Endoscopic laser discectomy
- Prosthetic disc replacement
Slipped disc surgery usually alleviates many of the severe slipped disc symptoms immediately and the recovery time is usually between two and six weeks. The complications of surgery and a recovery plan will be discussed with you before the surgery commences.