A slipped disc is a herniation or leakage of the content of the vertebral disc (nucleus pulposus) outward. As a consequence, it compresses different structures such as nerves or nerve roots causing low back pain.
This herniation of the nucleus pulposus can compress either the marrow or the nerve root found on either side of the vertebrae.
This causes the reflex contracture of the muscles of the area, generating low back pain or cervicalgia (neck pain).
Which are the symptoms of Slipped Disc?
Typical symptoms may be numbness in the leg or arm, feeling of cramping, tingling, loss of sensitivity, loss of strength in the limb and pain in different degrees.
The severity of a herniated disc is marked by the functional disability that it generates. That is to say, the symptoms are pain, loss of strength and alterations in sensitivity.
Other considerations to take into account:
- Herniated discs usually occur in the lumbar region (95% L4-L5 and L5-S1). Another common place is the cervical region (C5-C6, C6-C7).
- The hernia can not only cause low back pain or cervical pain, but it can also alter strength, sensitivity and control of the sphincters, depending on their location.
- Between 30% and 50% of healthy people have slipped discs and do not know it, because they do not cause any problems. Even when there is lumbalgia or cervicalgia, it can be resolved without surgery.
Conservative treatment consists of avoiding painful positions, but also pain medication and physiotherapy.
In the case of herniated discs in the cervical area, doctors suggest surgery with an anterior approach, that means the cervical vertebrae is accessed through the front of the neck. From there they will remove the disc (discectomy) replacing it with a prosthesis welded to the vertebrae with a titanium plate (arthrodesis).
Lumbar herniated discs can be treated in different ways depending on the characteristics of the injury.
For instance, a laminotomy consists of enlarging the size of the hole through which the root of the nerve exits. A doctor can also withdraw that area of bone (laminectomy) to release the pressure in the nerve, and disappear low back pain. Surgeons can also perform arthrodesis in the lumbar area.