Deccan Chronicle, Thursday 15 April 2010
SLIPPED DISC WORRYING YOU? LEARN ABOUT IT
Let’s learn about slipped disc and its causes in the forthcoming columns.
What is slipped disk?
Our disks are protective shock absorbing pads between the bones of the spine. Although
they do not actually “slip,” a disk may split or rupture. This can cause the disk to fail,
allowing the gel (which is part of the disk) to escape into the surrounding tissue. The
leaking jelly like substance can place pressure on the spinal cord or on a single nerve
fibre, causing symptoms of pain around the damaged disk or anywhere along the area
controlled by that nerve.
The layman’s term “slipped disk” is, therefore, a misnomer and actually refers to a
condition whereby portions of an abnormal, injured or degenerated disk has protruded
against nerve tissues. This condition is also known as a herniated, ruptured, prolapsed or
more commonly, slipped disk. The affected area is the lower back, but any disk can
rupture, including those in the neck too.
Slipped Disk Causes
Factors that lead to a slipped disk include ageing with associated degeneration and loss of
elasticity of the disks and supporting structures; injury from improper lifting especially if
accompanied by twisting or turning; and excessive physical activities. Sudden forceful
acute trauma is an uncommon cause of a slipped disk.
Slipped Disk Symptoms
The nerves exit the spine at each spinal level in the lower back, mid-back and neck. A
herniated disk can produce symptoms along the course of that nerve, though the injury
and irritation of the nerve are on the spine itself. (This is known as referred pain, as the
pain is “referred” from the source of the problem in the spine to the area supplied by the
particular nerve affected.)
A Slipped disk can produce varying degrees of pain in the back or neck along with
numbness or weakness in the corresponding organs, arms or legs as follows:
For slipped disks in the neck: Numbness, tingling, weakness or pain in the shoulder
neck, arm or hand.
For Slipped disks in the lower back:
Numbness, tingling, weakness or pain in the buttocks, back, legs or feet. Numbness and
tingling around the anus or genitals. Pain along the back of each leg from the buttocks to
the knee (this is called sciatica). Pain with movement. Straining, coughing or doing leg
raises. Difficulty controlling bowel movements or bladder function.
(The writer is a spine care specialist at Dr Vijay’s Spine Care, Ulsoor)