A prolapsed or herniated disc is a common back complaint.
What is a slipped disc?
The shock-absorbing discs in the spine are made up of a strong outer fibrous coat that contains soft gel-like material. A prolapsed disc occurs when the gel-like material pushes out from between the bones of the spine (vertebrae). A herniated disc occurs when the outer coat ruptures.
Pain is caused when the disc puts pressure on the surrounding nerves or spinal cord.
A slipped disc is most common in the lower back, but it can also occur in the neck and upper back.
It’s most likely to occur between the ages of 25 and 45, and is slightly more common in men.
Symptoms may occur suddenly or build up gradually over a number of weeks. They may include:
*Stiffness in the affected area
If the disc presses on a nerve, weakness, severe pain, numbness or tingling may occur in the leg (sciatica) or arm, depending on where in the spine the slipped disc has occurred.
Impaired bowel or bladder function can indicate pressure on the spinal cord. If these symptoms arise, urgent medical advice is needed.
Causes and risk factors
Incorrect lifting of objects and being overweight increase the risk of a slipped disc occurring.
Therefore, keeping to an ideal weight, exercising the back muscles regularly and lifting objects correctly can help you avoid such an injury.
Treatment and recovery
Treatment may include avoiding further stress on the back by modifying physical activities, painkillers, physiotherapy or osteopathy. In most cases this is enough to let the condition settle.
Sometimes traction, anaesthetic injections or surgery is recommended if the disc remains prolapsed or worsens.