A Slipped Disc by Any Other Name
If you’ve ever heard back pain referred to as a “slipped disc” but weren’t quite sure what that meant, read on. Our post today is about the catch-all term for several spinal conditions known as a slipped disc.
What’s a Disc Anyway?
There are 23 intervertebral discs in the spine. These discs function as shock absorbers between the vertebrae and allow for mobility in the spinal column. Discs are made up of a tough outer portion known as the annulus fibrosis and an inner gel-like core called the nucleus pulposus.
Dr. Jeremy James describes an intervertebral disc as something like a jelly donut—a tough, rubbery outer layer and a soft, gooey interior. If one ruptures, and that gel comes out, the vertebra has nothing left to cushion it and that means pain.
What is a Slipped Disc?
A slipped disc isn’t a disc that has completely slipped out of place—that’s a bit of a misconception. A slipped disc is a sort of “catch all” term for several disc conditions that compress or irritate sensitive spinal nerves.
“A slipped disc and a herniated disc are the same thing,” says Dr. James. A herniated disc is when the inner gel portion of the disc bulges or leaks out, causing inflammation or pressure on a nerve root.
Degenerative Disc Disease
A slipped disc may also be the result of degenerative disc disease. As you age, your discs will begin to wear down. When the outer ring of the disc starts to break down, the disc becomes a less-effective shock absorber, and the vertebrae become less stable. This instability can cause irritation to the surrounding muscles, joints, and/or nerve roots.
Symptoms of a Slipped Disc
When a slipped disc is in the cervical spine, you may feel pain in your neck or shoulders. Numbness, tingling or weakness may radiate into the arm. There may also be a reduction in your range of motion.
While uncommon, a slipped disc in the thoracic region of the spine may cause pain in the upper back and/or a radiating pain in the chest or belly.
If the slipped disc is in the lumbar spine, you may have pain in your lower back or down into one or both of your legs (sciatica). Many who experience a slipped disc describe numbness or a “pins and needles” sensation in the back, buttocks, legs, or feet.
Get an Accurate Diagnosis
If chronic neck or back pain from a slipped disc interferes with your daily activities, it may be time to speak with a spine specialist. No matter what you call your pain, the most important thing is getting a correct diagnosis. The sooner you know what’s happening with that painful disc, the sooner you’ll receive a treatment plan that’s right for you. Schedule an appointment with one of our board certified, minimally invasive spine specialists today.
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