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What Is Slipped Disc

What is a Slipped disc and what are its Symptoms?

There are many diseases that we are completely unaware of. We don’t pay much heed to a headache, an ache in the backbone or an occasional nausea. Doctors say that most of the people tend to ignore the early symptoms of many diseases, especially those related to the nervous system. For example, the spinal condition called Slipped Disc, whose early symptoms include back pain, are ignored till the condition is critical.

What is a Slipped disc?

Slipped Disc herniation, or Slipped Disc, is a medical condition related to the spinal cord. A tear in the outer, fibrous ring of an invertebral disc allows the soft central portion to bulge out through the damaged outer rings. This occurs due to age related degeneration of the annulus fibrosus, through injuries, trauma, or straining. Tears in the fiber are postero lateral in nature due to the presence of posterior longitudinal ligament in the spinal canal. The tear in discs releases chemical mediators that swell up the region, causing pain, even in absence of nerve root compression. Technically the spinal discs don’t actually slip from the vertebrae but the central portion swells up due to the tear.

What are the symptoms?

  1. The symptoms can vary depending on location of the herniation and the type of tissue involved.
  2. It can range from little to no pain to severe and continuous neck or lower back pain that may spread to regions connected by the same nerve root that are affected by the herniation.
  3. Often patients complain of inexplicable pains in thighs, knees or feet.
  4. Some other symptoms are sensory disturbance like, numbness, tingling, muscular weakness, paralysis paresthesia, and trouble with reflexes.
  5. If the herniation is in the lumbar region, there may be sciatica caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve.
  6. The pain from this symptom is constant in a particular location. Sometimes there are almost no symptoms at all.
  7. Radiating pain can be felt in the lower part of body or both sides, in serious cases.
  8. Some permanent damages are: paralysis, loss of bowel or bladder control as well as sexual dysfunction.


Diagnosis is generally done by tests to rule out other cause like spondylolisthesis, tumors, etc.

  1. Straight leg raise is not accurate but a negative on this test rules out the possibility of a lower lumber disk herniation.
  2. X-rays are used to rule out possibilities like tumors, infections, fractures etc. It can confirm the presence of a herniated disc.
  3. MRI shows the soft tissue better than a CAT scan, which merely confirms the herniation visually. MRI provides the most conclusive evidence.
  4. EMG/MCS measure the electrical impulses. This shows whether there is damage in the nerve. This test is used to pinpoint the sources of nerve dysfunction distal to the spine.


In most cases a slipped disc doesn’t require surgery; physical therapy tends to cure the condition. Pain and anti-inflammatory medication and injections are given. Surgery is seen as a last resort in serious cases.

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