Slipped Disc

A slipped disc is a commonly known term to describe a degenerative back problem more technically known as a "bulging disc" or "herniated disc".

A slipped disc is a commonly known term to describe a degenerative back problem more technically known as a "bulging disc" or "herniated disc". A herniated disc, also known as a slipped disc, occurs then a tear in the lining of the disc opens up that is big enough that its contents from its think, jelly like core, are ejected into the space around it. Patients may or may not feel pain because of this condition; it depends on where the disc material goes after it has escaped out of its core. Located adjacent to these discs (intervertebral discs) are the nerve roots that exit our spine and travel throughout our body. If the material ejected from the "slipped disc" presses into one of these nerve roots, than we may experience pain as well as a variety of other motor or sensory problems. Neurologic problems we may experience as a result of the nerve being pressed on include weakness of certain muscles or body parts, burning, numbness, weakness, and loss of feeling. People who experience these types of symptoms should immediately contact their doctor or go to the emergency room.

When I first heard the term slipped disc, I imagined a part of the spine that because dislocated, or pulled out of position, like what would happen with a dislocated shoulder. This degenerative condition used to describe a slipped disc is a misnomer, because the disc itself does not actually slip out of its place in the spine, between the vertebrae (vertebral bones). As I stated above, what really happens is the disc loses its height due to its loss of volume, along with a rupture in the wall of the disc that makes it collapse downward, or eject some of its material outwards.

How is This Condition diagnosed and treated? Actually, the doctor can learn a lot about your back problem by measuring the strength of the muscles in the area where you are describing to have pain, numbness or weakness. The doctor may also gather a lot of useful information by hearing you describe the location, type, and severity of your symptoms.

The spinal cord has many branches which deliver messages to and from the organs and tissues of the body. Along each segment of the spinal cord, 2 main nerve branches emerge, where they branch several times, and make their way to nearly every tissue in the human body. There are two nerve roots on each side of the spine to supply information to each side of the body. Though the processes is somewhat complex, research into anatomy and neurology has allowed doctor to be able to map the body and the route that each major nerve exiting the spinal cord takes. For example, we know that the nerves that branch from the nerve roots at the level of C5, C6, and T1 are responsible for our ability to move our arms, shoulders, and hands. If a patient were to report pain at this level of their spine, and numbness/weakness in a specific arm and hand, the doctor would suspect a disc problem with one of about three intervertebral discs.