Myth Busting; The Truth Behind Slipped Discs
Posted on 15th April 2021
I’m sure most people have heard someone tell them they have a ‘slipped disc’ and that they are going to have to get someone to ‘slip’ the disc back into place. Well, let’s get the record straight, the discs in between the vertebrae cannot slip so therefore slipped discs do not exist.
What’s known as a slipped disc is usually a disc bulge, a ‘disc prolapse’ or a ‘disc herniation’. The intervertebral disc is a soft cushion of tissue that sits between the bones in the spine. The outer layers are made of strong, fibrous collagen which can withstand a huge amount of compression. The inner layer is made up of a gel-like liquid which is called the nucleus and this acts as a shock absorber. Sometimes the disc can lose its normal shape/consistency which in turn causes the liquid to protrude through the outer layer or burst - which is where the term disc bulge and prolapsed disc comes from.
How do I know if I have a ‘slipped disc’?
Without an MRI or an XRAY most medical professionals can give you an educated guess on whether you do have a disc injury based upon the presentation and symptoms in the initial assessment. We may be considered miracle workers, but we can’t see through your back!
The common signs of a disc
Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
Unable to bend or fully straighten your back
Pain that worsens after sitting or standing
How are disc injuries caused?
Disc injuries can be caused by trauma, such as lifting a heavy load using the incorrect posture, or by external forces e.g. whiplash. They can also be caused by natural degeneration; the older you get the more likely it is that you will experience one. This is because as we age the nucleus within our discs begins to dry out which makes it less efficient at absorbing loads, therefore causing strain or bulging.
Some more common causes that we see in our clinics are:
Sudden twists of the spine
Extended periods of sitting
Violent bouts of coughing and sneezing
You can easily prevent a disc injury by maintaining a good posture, regularly exercising, doing activities which have a variety of different movements and strengthening exercises.
Can a disc be put back in?
In short; no.
When the nucleus protrudes out of the outer layer or ‘bursts’, it cannot be put back in. When a disc bulges, the site around it will become inflamed which can compress on the surrounding nerves. The primary forms of treatment stem from medication and rehabilitation. However, it needs to be clear that the disc will not return back to its original form.
This also doesn’t mean that your spine cannot return to normal level of function. Through specific strengthening exercises and massage therapy, you can encourage your spine to return to its usual state.
Everybody and every injury is unique, so a disc injury is not something that can be diagnosed or treated by a Google search. If you have any symptoms or need general advice speak to one of the therapists at Fire & Earth as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the longer it will take to heal and the higher the risk of long-term damage. We’re here to help so please get in touch if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort.
Share this post: