Concerned that you may have a slipped disc? Learn more about the risks, symptoms, and available treatments.
Advice from the top orthopaedics expert in the world to enhance your mobility, fitness, and general health.
The lumbar spine region of the lower back is prone to herniated or slipped discs, particularly in middle-aged or older adults. But some of the symptoms might surprise you. James E. Dowdell III, MD, an HSS spine surgeon, says that this condition is more likely to affect the legs, feet, and buttocks than the back. Fortunately, most of the time herniated discs are easily treatable, and you can take precautions to avoid them in the first place.
A slipped “disc” doesn’t actually slide anywhere.
The cushioning substance between the vertebrae, or spinal column’s bones, is known as the disc. It consists of a tough collagen ring encircling the nucleus pulposus, a substance that resembles jelly. A nerve may be compressed if a break occurs in the outer ring, allowing some of the jelly-like material to escape.
The risk of a slipped disc increases if you smoke.
Smoking is the single biggest risk factor for herniated discs. The outer ring and the pulposus nucleus can degrade as a result of smoking.
Because younger people have more material in their spines, larger herniations are more common in this age group. However, it can occur at any age.
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Although slipped discs typically heal on their own, pain can be managed with physical therapy or other medications.
After the body releases enzymes to remove the herniated piece and the pressure on the nerves subsides, most disc herniations resolve on their own in six weeks to three months. “The first step would be to go to either your primary care physician or a physiatrist—a sports medicine physician who specialises in rehabilitation—if the pain is severe enough that it’s really bothering you,” Dr. Dowdell advises.
In the event that a herniated disc is diagnosed, the physician may recommend physical therapy. Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatories can help reduce some of the pain and swelling.
A slipped disc may require surgery.
The herniated fragment that is close to the nerve is removed by the surgeon during disc herniation surgery. Both minimally invasive and open surgery can be used to accomplish this.