In most instances, back pain is simply the result of unusual exertion, fatigue or a twist or sharp movement, but occasionally, there has been an injury to the spine and medical attention is required. A slipped disc is one such common injury to the spine. It can be extremely painful, and may damage surrounding muscle and nerve systems. If pain is very severe, if it persists or worsens when you lie down, if it travels down your leg or if numbness sets in, then a doctor should be consulted.
Despite the common name – “slipped disc”, it doesn’t really “slips” out, rather the gel-like material in the centre of the disc bulges into the spinal canal. A slipped disc is also known as a prolapsed intervertebral disc (PID), herniated or ruptured disc.
A disc is a small mass of elastic, gristle-like tissue. Located between each vertebra in the spinal column, discs act as shock absorbers for the spinal bones. Thick ligaments attached to the vertebrae hold the pulpy disc material in place.
Slipped Disk Causes and Risk Factors:
Risk factors that lead to a slipped disk include aging with associated degeneration and loss of elasticity of the disks and supporting structures; injury from improper lifting, especially if accompanied by twisting or turning; and excessive strain forces associated with physical activities. Sudden forceful acute trauma is an uncommon cause of a slipped disk.
For slipped disks in the lower back, back symptoms include
- Pain down the back of each leg from the buttocks to the knee or beyond (this is called sciatica, as it affects the sciatic nerve)
- Numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain in the buttocks, back, legs, or feet or all of these as in sciatica
- Numbness and tingling around the anus or genitals
- Pain with movement, straining, coughing, or doing leg raises
- Difficulty controlling bowel movements or bladder function
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