Many patients with back pain, leg pain, or weakness in the lower limbs are diagnosed with a herniated disc a.k.a Slipped disc.

The spinal column is made of up 26 bones (vertebrae) that are cushioned by discs. These discs, also referred to as inter-vertebral discs are protective shock-absorbing pads between the bones of the spine (vertebrae). Each Disc has two parts—a soft, gelatinous inner portion and a tough outer ring.

Although they do not actually “slip,” a Disc may bulge, split, or rupture due to an injury or weakness and which causes  the disc cartilage and nearby tissue to fail (herniate), allowing the inner gel portion of the disc to escape into the surrounding tissue. This protruding, jelly-like substance can place pressure on the spinal cord or on an adjacent nerve to cause symptoms of pain, numbness, or weakness either around the damaged Disc or anywhere along the area supplied by that nerve.

The layman’s term “slipped Disc” is, therefore, a misnomer and actually refers to a condition wherein portions of an abnormal, injured, or degenerated Disc have protruded against nearby nerve tissues. This condition is also known as a herniated Disc, ruptured Disc, or prolapsed Disc. The most frequently affected area is in the low back, but any Disc can rupture, including those in the neck.

Symptoms Of A Slipped Disc:

A herniated disc would not be a problem if it weren’t for the spinal nerves that are very close to the edge of these cushioning discs. When the disc does press on a nerve, the symptoms may include:

  • Pain that travels through the buttock and down a leg to the ankle or foot because of pressure on the sciatic nerve. Lower back pain may accompany the leg pain.
  • Tingling (“pins-and-needles” sensation) or numbness in one leg that can begin in the buttock or behind the knee and extend to the thigh, ankle, or foot.
  • Weakness in certain muscles in one or both legs.
  • Pain in the front of the thigh.
  • Severe muscle pain and muscle spasms

Causes Of A Slipped Disc:

Slipped Disc occurs when the outer ring becomes weak or torn and allows the inner gel layer to slip out of place. This can occur due to the below causes :

  • The disc tends to lose its water content and integrity with age. This can cause the slip out of its place more easily.
  • Stress can lead to tears on the discs that over time worsen and tend to herniate or rupture.
  • Certain awkward motions can cause the disc to slip out of its place. E.g. while twisting or turning to lift an object.
  • Lifting a very heavy or large object can place great strain on the back causing the disc to slip.
  • Injuries resulting from a direct, forceful blow to the spine
  • Overweight individuals are at an increased risk of slipped discs since their discs have to support additional weight.
  • Weak muscles and a sedentary lifestyle may also contribute to disc herniation.

Effects Of A Slipped Disc:

When a herniated disc is ignored and not treated appropriately, it may lead to permanent nerve damage. In some very severe cases, they may cause bowel or bladder control, referred to as a Cauda Equina syndrome.

A long term complication of Slipped disc is referred to as Saddle Anesthesia. In these cases, the slipped disk compresses nerves and that causes you to lose sensation in your inner thighs, the back of your legs, and around your rectum.


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