Anyone with back pain can tell you how excruciating and even how debilitating it can be at times. There are different sources of back pain injuries and with that comes different types of treatment to help alleviate the pain. Slipped discs are a common back problem that many people deal with from time to time. Let’s take a look at what slipped discs are, their symptoms, causes and the otpions for the treatment of slipped discs.
What is a disc in the back?
Many people with back pain will say they have a slipped disc when they are in agony. A disc in your back serves as a cushion in between the bones of your spinal cord. The discs protect the bones by absorbing the shocks that occur to them from activities like walking, lifting, twisting, running, etc.
What is a slipped disc?
When you’re talking about discs in the back it’s important to note that there are two parts; a soft, jelly-like inner portion and a tough outer ring. Any type of injury or weakness can cause the soft part of the disc to protrude to the outer ring. When this happens, that inner jelly-like part starts to seep into the surrounding tissue and other areas, causing extreme pain. This is what many referred to as a “slipped disc”. If the slipped disc compresses one of your spinal nerves, you may also start to feel numbness and pain along the nerve that was affected.
Many people will say that the term “slipped disc” is not accurate to what is going on inside of the body because nothing is actually slipping or falling. But, it is still one that is used and recognized by the medical community.
What causes a slipped disc?
Since our backs are involved in virtually every movement we make, there is a laundry list of causes when it comes to a slipped disc. Here are three of the most common ones:
- Heavy Lifting or Twisting. A slipped disc can happen when you are twisting or turning to lift something. When you lift a heavy object, you are putting a lot of strain on your back muscles, which can lead to a slipped disc.
- Being Overweight. Being overweight can lead to a slipped disc because the extra weight can put a strain on the back that it can’t handle. If your muscles are weak or you don’t get much exercise or movement, you could also be prone to developing a slipped disc.
- Getting Older. While anyone at any age can develop a slipped disc, it tends to happen more frequently when people get older. As we get older, our discs begin to lose some of their protective water. This can cause that inner ring to protrude more often.
What are the symptoms of a slipped disc?
The symptoms of a slipped disc vary because it can affect the upper or lower back, although a slipped disc is more common in the lower portion of the back. A slipped disc puts extra pressure on the spinal column and the nerves surrounding it. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, a slipped disc may be to blame:
- Pain and numbness, most often on one side of the body
- Pain that extends from your back to your legs or arms
- Unexplained muscle weakness
- Pain that gets worse when you stand or sit
- Pain that gets worse at night
- Tingling, aching, or burning in one area
- Pain with movement, straining, coughing, or doing leg raises
Those symptoms are typically associated with slipped discs, but can also be linked to other conditions. If you are experiencing any of those, it’s best to consult your doctor for a proper examination. They can determine if it is indeed a slipped disc and what course of treatment is necessary. A doctor will do a physical exam that may consist of the following:
- Spinal exam
- Neurological test
- Range of motion test
- Leg raise test
A doctor may also do a series of tests including x-rays, CT scans or an MRI to get a clearer picture of what’s going on inside. Understanding the injury in its entirety allows for the best treatment for slipped discs depending on your case.
Treatment for Slipped Discs
Once you’ve been diagnosed with a slipped disc, you’re going to want to know how to treat the pain. Treatment for slipped discs is determined by the level of pain you’re experiencing. Most likely your doctor will advise you not to do any lifting until your condition heals. But, you don’t want to remain sedentary. Doing so can weaken your muscles and leave your joints stiff. Try to maintain regular activity at a slower pace.
Your doctor may tell you to take over-the-counter pain medications. If those do not work, he may prescribe stronger medications such as narcotics or muscle relaxers.
Many times, physical therapy is used as a treatment for slipped discs. This type of therapy will include exercises that can strengthen your back while also reducing pain. This type of natural treatment for slipped discs is often recommended because a professional can craft an exercise program that will help you get stronger while alleviating the pain. Typically, people will recover from a slipped disc within six weeks depending on the severity of the injury.