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Slipped disc

What is a slipped disc?

The term “Slipped disc” often describes deterioration of a spinal disc, in which the tough outer layer develops a tear and allows some of the inner, gel-like material to leak out. When this material comes in contact with a nearby nerve root, it can cause a variety of painful symptoms. This condition is referred to by many different names, including herniated disc, ruptured disc and prolapsed disc.

How is a slipped disc diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose a slipped disc based on your description of symptoms and a review of your medical history. Medical imaging can then be used to confirm a diagnosis. This may take the form of an X-ray, CT scan or MRI test.

What causes a slipped disc?

Slipped discs are most commonly the result of the natural wear and tear the spine endures over the years. Spinal discs can lose water and elasticity as we age, making them more brittle and vulnerable to damage. Additionally, several factors may contribute to the deterioration of spinal discs, including:

  • Obesity
  • Tobacco use
  • Poor posture
  • Overexertion
  • A sedentary lifestyle

Another common cause of slipped discs is injury caused by playing a high-impact sport or from a job that requires repetitive movements and heavy lifting.

What are the symptoms of a slipped disc?

When the inner material of a spinal disc comes into contact with a nearby nerve, symptoms may extend along the entire nerve pathway. You may experience pain at the location of the affected disc, generalized muscle weakness, numbness and tingling and a pins-and-needles sensation down through an extremity. If the affected nerve is located in the upper (cervical) spine, symptoms may appear in the shoulder region down through the arm and hand. Similarly, if the affected nerve is in the lower (lumbar) spine, symptoms may affect the hip area and extend down through the leg and foot.

What treatment options are available for a slipped disc?

A doctor will typically recommend nonsurgical treatment options as a first step in alleviating the pain and other symptoms caused by a slipped disc. Many patients find that a combination of one or more of the following treatment options is effective:

  • Lifestyle changes. This may involve quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, losing weight or increasing physical activity.
  • Physical therapy. Exercises and stretching techniques that aim to strengthen the back and improve flexibility can help provide support to the spine.
  • Pain medications. Over-the-counter pain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce inflammation around the affected nerve.

Is surgery needed to treat a slipped disc?

If conservative treatment options are ineffective at relieving symptoms over the course of a few weeks to a few months, your doctor may recommend surgery. Minimally invasive spine surgery is available at Laser Spine Institute Philadelphia and may be the solution you’re looking for. As an alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery, our outpatient procedures involve a less than 1-inch incision and use muscle-sparing techniques, helping our patients to recover faster^ comparatively.

To learn more about receiving minimally invasive surgery to treat a slipped disc, contact Laser Spine Institute in today. We offer a no-cost MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for one our procedures.