A SLIPPED disc is caused when the injured disc gets displaced from its original position due to disc tear. The slipped disc protrudes against adjacent nerve tissues causing back and leg pain, weakness or numbness.
Slipped disc is classified into ‘contained’ and ‘non-contained’ slipped disc.
What Are Spinal Discs?
Spinal discs are protective shock-absorbing pads between the bones of the spine.
Spinal discs consist of the central nucleus pulposus surrounded by a lining called annulus fibrosis
Slipped disc gets worse with age but can also happen to people within the ages of 20-40 years old.
Causes of slipped disc include:
- Competitive high impact sports
- Occupational factors such as prolonged sitting in the office
- Heavy lifting by using back muscles instead of leg and thigh muscles
- Aging of spinal discs – Collagen structure in the spinal discs are more prone to wear and tear due to little or no direct supply to the spinal disc
The loss of ‘cushioning’ due to slipped disc can lead to the instability of the spinal structure. This causes back pain that originates from the spinal disc. People who suffer from slipped disc are unable to sit for long periods of time as the spinal disc has collapsed and is unable to support the weight of the body.
Symptoms Of A Slipped Disc
Persistent pain in the neck, lingering pain on the lower back, or pain that travels along the arms can be warning signs of slipped disc.
Symptoms of slipped disc also include:
- Sharp pain that spreads from the lower back down to the leg
- Weakness in one leg or one arm
- Numbness in one leg, one arm or buttocks
- Burning sensation in the neck, shoulders or arm
- Difficulty in controlling bowel movements and urination
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Diagnosis And Treatment
With proper care, this condition will usually heal by itself within four to six weeks. If there is persistent pain for more than two weeks, or if you suspect it is a case of slipped disc, visit a spine and orthopaedic surgeon for a thorough check-up.
Non-surgical treatment options include:
Avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits — smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
Regular exercise to reduce pressure on the slipped disc with core muscle training
Correcting bad posture
Lifting heavy loads correctly to minimise spine injury
Practice proper posture habits especially when sitting, working and sleeping
Alleviating neck/back pain and maintaining proper spine posture
Improve the strength and stamina of spinal muscles through clinical programmes
Soothes nerves during physiotherapy.
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In Singapore, one out of 10 cases of slipped disc will require surgery. The decision for surgery would depend on whether it is a ‘contained’ or ‘non-contained’ slipped disc and the degree of the disc degeneration.
Surgical treatments may involve:
- X-ray guided needle probe utilising radiofrequency or laser to shrink the slipped disc. This can be performed as a day procedure without overnight hospitalisation.
- Minimally invasive Micro-discectomy which is a ‘keyhole’ surgical procedure utilising a microscope to remove portions of the slipped or herniated disc to relieve pressure on the spinal nerve column.
If you suffer from slipped disc, consult a spine and orthopaedic specialist to learn more about your condition.
Dr Leslie Ng is a consultant spine and orthopaedic surgeon with Island Orthopaedic Consultants (Member of Healthway Medical Group). He is passionate in the treatment of degenerative spine disease and is well-versed in the third-generation minimally invasive treatment of osteoporosis vertebra fracture with miniature titanium implant.