Spinal column is made up of a series of bones stacked onto each other. From top to bottom, the column includes 7 bones in the cervical spine, 12 in the thoracic spine, and 5 in the lumbar spine, followed by the sacrum and the coccyx at the base. These bones are cushioned by discs. The discs protect the bones by absorbing the shocks from daily activities. Each disc has two parts: a soft, gel inner portion and a tough outer ring. Injury or weakness can cause the inner portion of the disc to stick out through the outer ring. This is known as a slipped disc. This causes pain and discomfort. If the slipped disc compresses one of the spinal nerves, may cause numbness and pain along the affected nerves.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Slipped disc can occur in any part of spine, from neck to lower back. The lower back is one of the more common areas for slipped discs. Spinal column is an intricate network of nerves and blood vessels. A slipped disc can place extra pressure on the nerves and muscles around it. The symptoms include, pain and numbness on one side of the body, pain that extends to arms and legs, pain that worsens at night or with standing, sitting or certain movements, unexplained muscle weakness, tingling, aching or burning sensation in the affected area.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?
A slipped disc occurs when the outer ring becomes weak or torn and allows the inner portion to slip out. This can happen with age. Certain motions may also cause a slipped disc. A disc can slip out of place while twisting or turning to lift an object. Lifting a very large, heavy object can place great strain on the lower back, resulting in a slipped disc. Having a very physically demanding job that requires a lot of lifting, may be at increased risk for slipped discs.
Individuals that are obese also at increased risk for a slipped disc because their discs must support the additional weight. Weak muscles and a unhealthy lifestyle may contribute to the development of a slipped disc.
As getting older, people more likely to experience a slipped disc. This is because the discs begin to lose some of their protective water content as aging. As a result, they can slip more easily out of place. They are more common in men than women.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE?
Doctor will first perform a physical exam. To look for the source of the pain and discomfort. This will involve checking nerve function and muscle strength, and whether there is any pain when moving or touching the affected area. Doctor also will ask about medical history and symptoms.
Imaging tests like x-rays, ct scans, mri scans or discograms can help doctor to view the bones and muscles of the spine and identify any damaged areas.
HOW TO TREAT?
The treatment typically depends on the level of discomfort and how far the disc has slipped out of place. Most people can relieve slipped disc pain using an exercise program that a physical therapist may recommend, to strengthen the back while reducing pain.
If the pain does not respond to over-the-counter treatments, doctor may prescribe stronger medications like, muscle relaxers, narcotics, gabapentin or duloxetine. If the symptoms do not subside in six weeks, the surgeon may remove the damaged portion of the disc without removing the entire disc. In more severe cases, doctor may replace the disc with an artificial one. This procedure, adds stability to spinal column.
HOW TO PREVENT?
You can take few steps to reduce the risk of developing a slipped disc like use safe lifting techniques by bending and lifting from knees not waist, maintain a healthy weight, do not remain seated for long period get up and stretch, do exercises to strengthen the muscles in your back, legs and abdomen and lastly drink lots of water to avoid dryness on the gel of the disc!