What is a Slipped Disc

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The spinal cord is protected by the backbone against potential injuries and each backbone is separated by a spinal disc that helps to cushion the pressure between bones, preventing each bone to grind against each other while leaving some space for the spinal nerves to pass through. Once the discs herniate, the nerve may become compressed or irritated. A herniated disc is interchangeably called as a slipped disc which is a condition commonly affecting the lumbar area (lower back) of the spine.

What are the symptoms of a slipped disc?

Pain is the classic symptom of a slipped disc. When you have a slipped disc, pain and numbness are commonly felt on one side of the body. It may also extend to your arms and legs. The pain may be aggravated when you stand or sit in longer periods or while walking short distances. In some cases, it may also be worsened when you sneeze, cough or laugh. You may also feel unexplained muscle weakness. Sometimes, tingling, aching or burning sensations may be felt in your arms or legs.

How is it diagnosed?

slipped disc
Slipped disc can cause weakness of the arm

The initial diagnosis for a slipped disc consists of a physical assessment. A physiatrist will ask you to perform certain activities such as sitting, standing and bending. Clinical manifestation of the symptoms will give your doctor an idea which nerve root is probably affected. However, the more accurate diagnosis is obtained through an electromyogram. Some other tests may be performed such as myelogram to determine the size and shape of the herniated disc; spine MRI, CT scans or X-ray to show that the herniated disc is pressing your spinal cord and to rule out other causes of pain.

When you have a slipped disc, your doctor will initially ask you to have a short period of rest and take pain medications. After the initial management, your doctor may recommend physical therapy such as exercise programs that strengthen your back and surrounding muscles while reducing pain.

What are the treatments for slipped disc?

Your physician may recommend over-the-counter pain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for long term pain management. Physical therapy is going to be a part of your treatment regimen too. Your therapists will teach you how to lift, dress, walk and perform other activities while protecting your spine and strengthen the muscles. You might be also given steroid medicine injections. If all these treatment fails, surgery may be recommended by your doctor.

First aid self management

You can perform proper self management treatment for your symptoms. Applying heat on the painful area will help relieve muscle spasm and pain. Learn relaxation techniques in order to relieve the tensed muscles that contribute to the discomfort brought by your slipped disc symptoms.


MedlinePlus. Herniated Disc. Retrieved on June 25, 2014 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000442.htm.

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