A slipped disc (often called a ‘herniated’ or prolapsed disc) is one of the most common causes of back and leg pain, but firstly it’s important to understand what it is and why you have got it.
The disc, which provides a cushioning between the vertebrae of the spine, consists of a harder outer shell, with a softer jelly like centre. When the outer surface becomes ruptured, the jelly like substance pushes into the spinal canal and reduces the space for the nerves, which exit the spine.
These nerves then become irritated and inflamed, which can cause pain anywhere along the path of the effected nerves, and in many cases cause a symptom called Sciatica.
Sciatica causes lower back, leg and buttock pain and other nerve-related symptoms. Instead of a pulsating pain or pain that comes and goes, which can be caused by muscle spasms, pain from a disc injury and sciatica is usually continuous.
So why have you got a Slipped disc?
Well regular wear and tear is one reason, disc degeneration can be a another cause in people over 35 but the most common reason is trauma.
Now trauma doesn’t need to be caused by a sporting injury or an accident, in fact many people have suffered a slipped disc by simply be reaching out for something, or by sneezing or coughing! So how do you know if you’ve got a slipped disc, or if you have just strained a muscle?
Testing For A Slipped Disc
The most common test to diagnose a slipped disc is the MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging scan). MRI has almost completely replaced all other tests when a slipped disc is suspected – it is a safe and painless and takes around 30 – 40 minutes to complete.
The MRI and can provide detailed pictures of the spine and how serious your injury is. Only then can the best form of treatment be administered.
You would have probably, already, been taken some form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and also applying some hot and cold treatment to help reduce the inflammation in your back, but once you have been accurately diagnosed you will be advised to begin some conservative self treatments such as lower back pain exercise, and stretching .
In the initial stages of pain, stretching exercises work effectively and there are many different stretches you can do. Also, you should do exercises that develop muscles in your lower back and stomach, not only will these exercises bring you rapid relief from pain, they will also prevent the pain returning at any time in the future – as long as you introduce these exercises into your weekly routine.
Exercises really are one of the most important self treatments for lower back pain relief.
Another treatment for a slipped disc is an Epidural Injection; An Epidural injection is usually given by anaesthesiologist, neurosurgeon, orthopaedic surgeon or neurologist who will inject an anaesthetic or cortisone into your back.
This helps to shrink the swelling and reduce any inflammation that surrounds the disc. The injection is performed as a day case, and does not require an overnight stay in hospital.
All in all, although a slipped disc can cause painful symptoms, a combination of anti-inflammatory medication together with an exercise and stretching program will rapidly have you on the road to recovery.
Surgery for a slipped disc is usually considered a last resort – and one you should only turn to after you’ve tried everything else.