What Does A Slipped Disc Feel Like & How to Fix it?
About Slipped Disc
Slipped Disc is a condition in which the inner portion of the spinal disc ends up protruding through the outer ring of the disc as a result of an injury, medical condition, or gradual degeneration of the disc due to normal aging process of an individual.1
The symptoms of a Slipped Disc are quite variable and depend on the location of the slipped disc and the extent of the condition and also whether there is compression of any nerve root.
Slipped Disc is a condition which is commonly seen in the elderly population as a result of general wear and tear of the disc with time.1 Anatomically speaking, each spinal disc has two portions, an outer ring and a soft gelatinous inner portion.
Any injury, weakness, or gradual degeneration of the spine can cause this inner gelatinous portion of the disc to protrude out through the external ring resulting in what we call as Slipped Disc. While in some cases, a Slipped Disc may heal on its own with rest there are cases where treatment is required to treat a Slipped Disc.
What Does A Slipped Disc Feel Like?
Coming to how does a slipped disc feel like, it is really quite variable and depends on the location of the slipped disc and whether the slipped disc is impinging on any nerve root or not.
A slipped disc can occur in all the three spines, but mostly occurs in the lumbar spine and cervical spine. The thoracic spine is relatively spared from slipped disc as it has very little motion to cause the disc to protrude out.
In cases of lumbar spine slipped disc, leg pain is the most common symptom along with severe and debilitating back pain. The pain begins in the back and radiates down the leg all the way to the ankle. This pain is called sciatic pain as the sciatic nerve is the nerve that gets impinged as a result of the slipped disc.
Almost all the cases of lumbar spine slipped disc occur in the L4-5 and L5-S1 region causing severe pain in the L5 and S1 region. This is called as L5 and S1 radiculopathy as the pain radiates down from this region. Additionally, it will also cause weakness of the lower extremities with a positive straight leg raise test and a footdrop. There is a sensation of numbness on the top of the foot as a result of the Slipped Disc.1
If the slipped disc is in the L5-S1 region, then pain is usually felt in the S1 area of the spine. Apart from pain, there will be weakness felt when standing on the toes. There will be radiating pain and numbness down the sole of the foot and the outer areas of the foot.
Cases of cervical spine slipped disc are quite rare as there is much less stress put on the cervical spine when compared to the lumbar spine. The symptoms caused by slipped disc of cervical spine are variable and depend on the location of the slipped disc.
If the slipped disc is caused at the C4-C5 level, it will cause weakness of the deltoid muscles and may not necessarily have any numbness of tingling. In some cases there may also be referred shoulder pain from the cervical spine.
In cases of cervical spine slipped disc at C5-C6, there will be impingement of the C6 nerve root. It will cause weakness in the biceps muscle and in the wrist extensors. The patient may also experience numbness and tingling along with pain which may radiate to the thumb.
C6-C7 level is yet another most common level where a cervical spine slipped disc occurs. Slipped disc at this level causes weakness of the triceps muscle and the finger extensors. The patient can feel numbness and tingling down the triceps to the middle finger.
Slipped disc at the C7-T1 segment can cause weakness with gripping and grasping objects along with pain, numbness, and tingling radiating down to the arm to the fingers.
How to Fix Slipped Disc?
The main aim of treatment of a slipped disc is to alleviate pain and return of normal function of the spine to allow the patient to return back to activities without any pain or discomfort. To achieve this, a detailed treatment strategy is designed to identify the source of the symptoms and then design a comprehensive treatment plan.
To begin with, conservative approach is the chosen mode to treat Slipped Disc. In cases where the patient is experiencing profound weakness and pain to the extent that he or she is more or less disabled then early surgical intervention is beneficial as in such cases conservative approach will not be beneficial and as the condition progress there may permanent damage to the nerve.
Conservative Treatment: Patient with Slipped Disc will be treated with NSAIDs and other pain killers for a few weeks to calm down the pain and discomfort. This will be followed by therapy focused on strengthening the spine and improving flexibility and range of motion of the spine. The patient will be educated on proper body mechanics so as to not put pressure on the spine. If the patient does not find relief of symptoms with conservative approach then surgical route is chosen for such patients.
Surgery: The most preferred surgical procedure done for a lumbar spine Slipped Disc is called as lumbar decompression. The name of the procedure done for lumbar decompression is called microdiscectomy.2 This not only treats the slipped disc, but also relieves pressure from the impinged nerve thus relieving the symptoms of pain and discomfort.
This procedure is extremely beneficial for sciatica type pain even though it may take several weeks for the nerve to completely heal. The patient may feel immediate relief from the leg following the surgery.
Chiropractic Treatment: There are also certain alternative treatments that can be used for treatment for Slipped Disc. Chiropractic treatments have shown some efficacy in treatments of Slipped Disc.3 The chiropractor will try to realign the discs and prevent disc protrusion. Some of the adjustments that are done for spinal realignment include muscle stimulation, stretches, and physiotherapy to realign the disc and prevent symptoms of Slipped Disc.
Activity Modifications: It should be noted here if an individual has a known diagnosis of a Slipped Disc then he or she should be as active as possible and as the symptoms allow. Sitting or lying down for prolonged periods of time can also increase symptoms thus it is important that the patient engage in light activities. Swimming, dancing, cycling are some of the actives that the patient can participate in to keep the back strong and also relief of symptoms of Slipped Disc.
- Herniated Disc
- What is Herniated Disc?
- Intervertebral Disc Herniation: Types, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis, Prevention
- Lumbar Disc Herniation: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment-Manual Therapy, PT, Surgery
- Slipped Disc: Disc Anatomy, Symptoms, Signs, Investigations, Treatment, Medications, Biofeedback, Preventive Measures
- Massage Therapy For Disc Herniation or Herniated Disc: Deep Tissue Massage