Arghh – I think I’ve slipped a disc

Ah the old slipped disc! I’m sure everyone’s heard this term before! It’s commonly used as a diagnosis for back pain! But just to throw a spanner in the works, did you know that the disc doesn’t actually slip?

What? But I know loads of people who’ve slipped a disc…

The discs are the shock absorbers of the spine. They are flexible and filled with a gel-like centre.  This allows them to support heavy loads while still allowing a great deal of movement.

If the disc is overloaded, or experiences regular stress (perhaps through poor posture or an accident), the gel-like centre can bulge through the outer wall of the disc. This is what is meant when we say the disc has slipped.

Imagine holding a water balloon in your hand and squeezing it, the balloon will bulge between the fingers (but hopefully won’t pop!).

What are the symptoms of a slipped disc?

The bulging part of the disc can press and irritate the nerves that exit the spine, and sometimes they can get “trapped”. This can be extremely painful and give rise to low back pain and sometimes leg pain (or sciatica).

Patients often find themselves bending over in pain – unable to stand up straight. It can be extremely painful to cough or sneeze and can feel like a sharp shooting pain, or like toothache in nature. Does that sound familiar to you?

What is the best treatment for a slipped disc?

First of all it is important to seek help from your chiropractor or physiotherapist. They will take some details from you and fully examine your condition. Once diagnosed, the focus of the treatment will be to lower the pain levels and improve mobility.

Lifestyle advice will also be necessary to make the disc less likely to ‘slip’ again. It is a good idea to engage in some core exercise like Pilates to strengthen the muscles that surround the disc once you have recovered.

A small number of disc problems require surgery, and if this is the case, your practitioner at the Waldegrave Clinic will refer you to the necessary place for help, and follow up with you to ensure the best possible care.

If you think you may have slipped a disc, please do get yourself seen sooner rather than later, we can help. Call 020 8943 2424.

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