A slipped disc (also referred to as a prolapsed or herniated disc) is a condition in which the inner, gelatinous part of a spinal disc protrudes past the hard outer section. Here is a brief explanation of this medical issue.
What causes a slipped disc?
Slipped discs can sometimes appear when a person sustains a back injury after lifting an extremely heavy object or abruptly twisting their torso. This problem can also be caused by age-related disc degeneration; as a person's body gets older, the amount of water in their spinal discs decreases. This loss of fluid can make a disc less flexible and therefore more susceptible to herniation.
What are the symptoms of this condition?
The symptoms of a slipped disc can differ, depending on the location of the affected spinal disc. However, generally speaking, this condition will cause sharp pain in the back and the neck. If the herniation results in compression of the sciatic nerve, it may also cause tingling, numbness and pain in lower back, hips and legs.
How is this condition diagnosed?
A doctor who suspects a patient may have a slipped disc will usually perform a physical examination, during which they will analyse the person's range of motion, and check their lumbar spinal region for signs of sensitivity or bulges which could indicate the presence of a herniated disc.
Additionally, they may also have scans carried out on the patient's back. An MRI scan, for example, may be used to determine the size and the position of a slipped disc.
How is this condition treated?
The protruding part of a slipped disc will normally return to its original location without the need for any major medical intervention. However, this process can take several weeks. During this time, the sufferer may be prescribed pain medication (such as anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics) as well as a muscle relaxant to help them cope with their symptoms. They might also be advised to go for massage therapy and if possible, follow a gentle daily exercise routine.
If the slipped disc persists for longer than a few weeks or if the pain cannot be managed with medication, the sufferer may need to have a few physiotherapy sessions. A physiotherapist can perform a range of treatments which will not only alleviate the person's symptoms but also help to speed up the recovery process. These treatments often include soft tissue manipulation as well as spinal mobilisation exercises.
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