Spinal discs are round cushions that lie in between the vertebrae of the spinal column. These discs act like shock absorbers between the vertebrae, cushioning them whenever we twist and turn our bodies in everyday life. These discs have an external shell and a gel like substance in the middle. Any injury caused to the disc may cause this gel to prolapse out of the disc which causes pressure on the nearby nerves of the spinal cord.
Alternative Names of Slipped Disc Injury : Lumbar radiculopathy,Cervical radiculopathy, Herniated intervertebral disk, Prolapsed intervertebral disk, Ruptured disk
Causes of Slipped Disc Injury
Any type of intense pressure on the disk by the vertebrae above and below it can cause this injury. Lifting a heavy objects in an improper manner, sudden twisting, weakening of the disk covering that occurs with age, or by traumatic injury to the back area.
Obesity can also put pressure on the disks.
Smoking can contribute to degeneration of the disk material.
Signs & Symptoms of Slipped Disc Injury
The most common symptoms of a herniated disk are these -
Lower back pain following a fall, injury to the back, or after lifting a heavy object. Pain that radiates from the lower back area, through the hip or buttocks, and down the back of the thigh to the knee or the whole way to the foot is a sign of sciatica. Sciatica is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, which follows this path on either side of the body.
Other symptoms of a herniated disk are a tingling or numb sensation in a leg or
Loss of bladder or bowel control.
Diagnosis of Slipped Disc Injury
Diagnosis is based on :
Study of medical history, information about the onset,development,location of the pain.
The doctor will perform a thorough physical examination.
You may also have x-rays of the spinal area, or your doctor may order:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scans to determine where and how badly the disk is damaged.
Myelography, in which dye or air is injected into the spinal canal before x-rays are taken.
An electromyogram (EMG), which measures the muscle's electrical activity of and reveals nerve damage.
Preventions of Slipped Disc Injury :
Avoiding sudden twisting motions.
Lifting heavy objects properly.
Avoiding heavy lifting. If your job requires frequent heavy lifting, make sure you wear a protective back supporting device while on the job.
An exercise program which focuses on strong and flexible lower back, strong abdominal muscles.
Good posture goes a long way in preventing back injuries.
Driving for long periods should be avoided.
If you are overweight, ask your doctor to recommend a healthy weight loss program.
Avoid smoking to preserve your overall health.
Treatments of Slipped Disc Injury
Cold or heat packs are usually necessary during the first few days, but the best available advice is to remain as active as possible, so long as the symptoms are not aggravated.
Some patients who do not recover with this treatment require injections of an anti-inflammatory medication into the spinal area.
If the disk has fragmented, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the pieces of the disk that are compressing the nerve and repairing a herniated disk
There are many types of surgical techniques :
A) Laminectomy surgery -The surgeon removes any fragments of the disk that are pressing on the nerve, as well as a part of the vertebra called the lamina. B) Microsurgical techniques - It requires smaller incisions and only a local anesthetic. Some types of herniated disk surgeries can be performed on an outpatient basis. Surgery is followed by physical therapy to strengthen the back and help you resume normal activities.
When to Call a Doctor
If you have sudden and severe back pain and when back pain becomes worse by sitting and bending. Some times coughing and sneezing exacerbate the pain.