What is a Slipped Disc?




To best understand how a slipped disc, known medically as a prolapsed disc, occurs, it’s important to first know the anatomy of your vertebral discs. These discs are composed of a hard, circular outer portion, known as the annulus fibrosis, which encases an inner, gel-like core known as the nucleus pulposus. A slipped disc occurs when the hard, outer portion of the disc weakens and allows the soft inner portion to leak through, oftentimes compressing or irritating sensitive spinal nerves as a result.

At birth, our spinal discs are usually composed of about 80% water. Over time and as we age, these discs can become increasingly dehydrated, dry and stiff. This is known as having degenerative discs, and encourages many spinal conditions – Including the likelihood of suffering a slipped disc.

With more than 3 million cases per year in the United States, not every slipped disc requires treatment. In fact, some slipped discs don’t cause any pain at all and many people don’t even realize that they have one! Typically, treatment is only required if ongoing pain is experienced or if the discomfort begins to interfere and affect a patient’s quality of life.

In the event that treatment becomes necessary, Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® always recommends a combination of conservative options first. These options are recommended based on each patient’s individual lifestyle, condition and health history. If it’s determined that conservative treatments are not effective or if the pain worsens over time, then our experienced physicians will work with you to find the best minimally invasive surgical option for your unique situation and the severity of your condition. We perform some of the most advanced minimally invasive surgeries available today and look forward to giving our patients back the quality of life that they deserve.

Slipped Disc Causes

There are a wide variety of causes behind often painful slipped discs. Some of the most common include:

  • Repeated improper movements, due to sports, improper lifting and even too much sitting
  • Unexpected or sudden injury, trauma or accident
  • Aging and general wear and tear associated with the body’s natural aging process
  • Smoking
  • Obesity and lack of exercise

Slipped Disc Symptoms

If a patient has sudden, severe back pain, particularly within the lower back region, it could be a slipped disc. Typically, the pain can be somewhat eased by lying flat but can also worsen if the back is unexpectedly shifted by sneezing, coughing or other small motions.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Severe pain that is almost always located on one side of the body
  • Radiating pain down into the legs or into the calves or feet
  • Tingling or pins-and-needles sensations
  • Numbness or weakness in the buttocks, legs or feet
  • Unexplained pain that worsens at night, with certain movements or when walking short distances

Slipped Disc Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Depending on the severity of the patient’s condition and the level and frequency at which they are experiencing pain, our physicians will implement a variety of conservative (non-surgical) treatment methods to fix the slipped disc and alleviate the associated pain.

There are several different options that our physicians may recommend, including:

  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications
    Over-the-counter and prescription medications, such as Ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, narcotic pain relievers and even nerve pain medicines, may be recommended to ease discomfort and swelling.
  • Injections
    Steroid injections or pain mapping are other options to isolate and pinpoint the exact source of pain, allowing our physician to apply anti-inflammatory and pain relief medication directly to the affected nerves. While this is generally considered to be a temporary solution, the majority of patients realize pain relief until a more permanent solution is determined.
  • Physical Therapy and Exercise Program
    Staying active by completing specific, low-impact exercises is key to avoiding muscle weakness and joint stiffness, which can compound an already-painful condition. We can guide and instruct patients in correct moves and exercises to help relieve tension while avoiding further damage.
  • Lifestyle Changes
    Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are two main factors that contribute to slipped discs. Losing excess weight, staying hydrated, quitting smoking and becoming more active can help patients to avoid reoccurring spinal issues, especially as they age.
  • Massage Therapy
    Not only does massage increase the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers) into the bloodstream, but it also encourages blood flow – Which, in turn, carries important nutrients to areas of the body in need while also aiding in speedier healing. Additionally, a licensed massage therapist can help to relieve tension in specific regions of the back.

Slipped Disc Minimally Invasive Treatment Options

If symptoms do not go away on their own or through conservative treatment methods, such as physical therapy, pain medication and injections, minimally invasive surgery may be an option. Our advanced technique involves creating a small incision to remove the bulging part of the disc without causing additional trauma to the surrounding areas. These procedures often relieves pain right away, with many patients able to return home much sooner than if they had undergone traditional open surgery.

Some of the most common minimally invasive surgeries for a slipped disc include:

  • Discectomies
    While there are variations on discectomy procedures, this method of minimally invasive surgery typically involves removing the “slipped”, or herniated, portion of the damaged disc. This takes pressure off the nerve, allowing it to heal, and usually offers immediate relief of pain.
  • Laminectomies

    Similar to discectomies, the various laminectomy procedures involve both the “slipped” portion of the disc and a portion of the bone covering the nerve being removed. This widens the spinal canal and allows more space for the spinal nerves.
  • Spinal Fusions
    There are several types of spinal fusions and they can even be implemented in tandem with another minimally invasive procedure, such as a discectomy or a laminectomy. Bone grafts and/or other devices, such as cages, rods, or plates, may be used to further stabilize the spine.

Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® can provide post-surgery chiropractic care and rehabilitative therapy to maintain your recovery and strengthen your wellness.

Please contact us by filling out the form on this page or stop by any of our Dallas-Fort Worth locations. We look forward to helping you get back your quality of life!

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