Slipped disc

Spinal nerves can be compressed when part of a disc “protrudes” into the spinal cord.

Overview

Spinal nerves can be compressed when part of a disc “protrudes” into the spinal cord. This leads to bands of pain, numbness/tingling and muscle weakness. Preventive measures include strengthening the back muscles and applying the correct lifting techniques.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

  • Pain running from the buttock area down the leg (e.g. “sciatica”) or from the neck down the arm
  • Bands of numbness or tingling
  • Partial paralysis (muscle weakness)

Other symptoms

  • Weakness of the bladder and sphincter muscles (urinary and faecal incontinence)
  • Lumbago is an indicator of injury to the spinal discs

Causes and treatment

Causes

Owing to wear and tear, parts of spinal discs can protrude into the spinal canal (herniated disc, slipped disc) and compress the nerves exiting from the spinal cord.

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Neurological examination (e.g. the doctor can use a reflex hammer to identify the muscle reflexes that are missing)
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
Possible therapies
  • Immobilisation and painkillers
  • Physiotherapy
  • Injection of anti-inflammatory medication
  • Surgery (as the very last resort or in an emergency)

In most cases, the injury can be treated without having to resort to surgery, and the slipped disc can heal by itself.

What can I do myself?

  • Heat treatment is usually more pleasant than cold treatment
  • Exercise, sauna, swimming and massage can help ease muscle tension

Prevention

  • Well-trained back muscles help to stabilise the spinal column
  • Back therapy training teaches techniques for lifting and carrying loads without hurting the back
  • Avoid or reduce excess weight

When to see a doctor?

  • When you suffer severe back pain for the first time
  • When you suffer sensory disturbances in the legs and muscle weakness
  • Suddenly occurring urinary or faecal incontinence qualifies as an emergency

Synonyms

herniated disc, Slipped disc, BSP

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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