Herniated Disc (Slipped Disc)

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Herniated Disc: Slip Disc in the Neck and Lower Back 

disc herniation example

The discs between the bones of our spine are filled with a jelly-like fluid. It functions to absorb shock and assist our body’s movement in all directions, protecting the nerves that pass from our spine to the rest of our body as we sit, walk, run, jump, or exercise. 

What is a Herniated Disc or Slip Disc?

Herniated disc or slip disc is when the disc in our spine bulges from its normal position and pinches on a nerve which causes severe back pain.

Herniated discs can occur anywhere along the spine, but slipped discs most typically occur at the neck (C5, C6, C7) and lower back (L5, S1); and less commonly the mid back (thoracic herniated disc).

What Causes Herniated Discs?

When the load exceeds what the discs can handle (e.g. suddenly picking something up, a sneeze, even brushing your teeth), a herniation of the disc can occur.

Something called an “annular tear” may also happen, where the disc doesn’t bulge out, but a small tear may occur in the disc, causing pain. If not taken care of, it may lead to a herniated disc.

Who Gets a Herniated Disc?

Slipped discs are most common in people aged (but not limited to) between 30 and 50. They affect twice as many men as women and are not limited to their occupation. Although, more strenuous careers involving heavy lifting or long hours standing or sitting have a higher risk of getting herniated discs.

Here at Spinefit, we have treated Practice Members as young as 19 years old and as old as 80 years old from slipped discs

What are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?

Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of someone who might have a slipped disc:

  • Neck pain or lower back pain
  • Numbness and tingling sensation to the arms and/or legs
  • Weakness in arms and/or legs
  • Loss of balance and fine motor skills
  • Bowel and/or bladder dysfunction (in severe cases)
  • Saddle anaesthesia, or loss of sensation at a distinct area around the buttocks, perineum and inner thighs (in severe cases)


4 Stages of Slipped Disc Severity

  • Degeneration (Mild-Moderate) – This is when you might not feel any slipped disc symptoms. The joint spaces in your spine may look narrower when viewed on an X-Ray, and you might mainly feel stiffness and soreness instead of any sharp pains.
  • Prolapsed (Moderate-Severe) – Prolapsed means ‘slipping of a body part from its usual position or relations’ and this is where the gel-like liquid in your spine begins to bulge outwards because of the excessive pressure placed on it (which can be from worsening degeneration, or sudden injuries). The bulging can pinch on nearby nerves, giving you sharp shooting pains down your back or legs.
  • Extrusion (Severe) – An extrusion means that the gel-like material in your slipped disc has begun to leak out. This often causes excruciating pain because the fluid material can irritate the surrounding spinal nerves, and the nerves inside the torn disc itself have become way more sensitive.
  • Sequestration (Most severe) – This is when part of your disc moves completely out of its normal centre position, and is sometimes called a ‘fragmented’ slipped disc. Surprisingly, this can cause severe symptoms, or no symptoms at all! This is because it depends on the location of where the fragmented disc piece moves to.

How To Get a Slipped Disc Back Into Place?

Getting a slipped disc back into place can depend on the severity of the slipped disc so that the best type of non-surgical intervention for herniated disc relief can be chosen! 

Can a Chiropractor Fix a Slipped Disc?

  • Chiropractic adjustments gently alleviate compression in the spine, reducing the pressure on the disc. It can help in progressing healing as well by increasing circulation to the area. 
  • Physiotherapy care helps to strengthen the surrounding muscles, giving you knowledge on how to prevent it from happening again. In severe cases, decompression therapy may be needed to further progress your treatment. 

Non-Surgical Treatment for Slipped Disc

Treatments would vary depending on the severity of herniated disc. Here’s what you can expect from chiropractic and physiotherapy treatment for the respective severity:

  • For Degenerative Disc

Chiropractic care and physiotherapy rehabilitation for disc degeneration is the first line of treatment because it can help gain back the mobility of the restricted and narrowed spinal joints which are not moving well. This helps the compressed discs improve their circulation and nourish it.

  • For Prolapsed Disc

Herniated disc relief when the disc is prolapsed often looks like releasing the tight muscles around the back through soft tissue techniques, chiropractic adjustments to help gain back the mobility of the spinal levels which are affected, and physiotherapy exercises to strengthen those muscles around the spine. This helps to prevent the prolapsed disc from becoming worse.

  • For Disc Extrusion

Rehabilitation will include the use of EMS to relieve pain caused by sensitised nerves, and ice to bring the inflammation down. Gentle stabilisation exercises will be given progressively which helps to stabilise the spine, and spinal decompression creates more ‘height’ in the spine to encourage the extruded material to return to its normal position. Gentle chiropractic care can also provide a lot of relief as pain subsides and movement is gained back.

  • Sequestrated Disc

Rehabilitative exercises play a role in increasing the strength of the spinal muscles to help absorb loads when a person is going about their daily life. Maintenance chiropractic care every 6-8 weeks goes a long way in keeping the spine moving well too. A strong and non-restricted spine helps to take the tension and load of the spinal discs!


Medication and Surgery for Slipped Disc

  • For Degenerative Disc

If you are feeling sore and stiff in the spine from degeneration, medications are usually not recommended at this stage, and neither is surgery. While severe degeneration often is not reversible, the symptoms can often be relieved through consistent movement and strength of the spinal muscles.

  • For Prolapsed Disc

Painful symptoms may be aided through the use of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or painkillers in the first few weeks of recovery where needed and if safe to take. Surgery is often not needed at this stage.

  • For Disc Extrusion

While some specialists opt for surgery at this stage due to the severe symptoms a patient may feel, most will choose to refer their patients for conservative care first before choosing surgery. This is mostly decided from the severity of symptoms – if the individual is not experiencing bowel/bladder/sexual dysfunction and there is no saddle anaesthesia, conservative care can help to relieve herniated disc symptoms without the complications and risks that surgery can bring. NSAIDs and painkillers are used in the first few weeks of recovery where needed

  • Sequestrated Disc

As mentioned, sequestered discs can often have no symptoms depending on where the spinal fragment has migrated to! 66.66% of these types of disc herniations can spontaneously resorb which means that they are naturally chemically broken down and re-absorbed by the body over time. Again, like the extruded slipped disc, surgery or medication is only recommended when there are severe symptoms. Otherwise, conservative care is the first line of treatment



When Should I See A Doctor?

If you experience any of the herniated disc symptoms, contact your personal doctor or spine specialist immediately for extra assurance. We advise to not wait until the herniated disc pain becomes more severe. The sooner you see your doctor, the better are your chances to heal without any surgical procedures.

Can this be prevented?

Although there is no single exercise or treatment to prevent a herniated disc, understanding the right postures, movements, and taking regular care of your spine as it undergoes the daily stresses of work and life will go a long way in preventing the occurrence of slipped discs. Read about our prevention tips on how to avoid getting a herniated disc.

How Do I Know If I Have A Herniated Disc?

If you are suspecting that you have a slipped disc or herniated disc and wondering what does a slipped disc feel like, recall whether you have:

  • Lifted something heavy from an awkward position and you experience a ‘snap’ or ‘popping’ sensation in the low back, followed by an intense sharp and shooting pain suddenly, it might be a good indicator that you might have had a slipped disc.
  • Been in poor posture when you sit or stand for extensive hours, which could place the disc under an excessive amount of stress and is causing you pain in your lower back. 
  • Done other sudden movements like a simple sneeze or bending forward can trigger a slipped disc that can result with a sudden sharp and shooting pain as well.

How to Do A Self-Check for Slipped Disc at Home?

If you suspect that you might have a slipped disc, here are some simple steps you can do to check if it results in any sharp or shooting pain.

  1. Try coughing forcefully and see if you feel any pain. 
  2. Attempt the Valsalva manoeuvre by closing your mouth, pinching your nose and attempting to forcefully exhale.

Both of these actions increase the intrathecal pressure in the spine and protruding disc, so that it causes more compression on the nerve.

However, after doing this self-check, it is advised to still consult with a primary healthcare provider or make an appointment with us for further clarification and examination.


Herniated Disc Treatment for Lower Back, Lumbar and Neck at Spinefit

At Spinefit, we make sure to perform a thorough initial consultation to identify the severity of slipped disc symptoms that you are experiencing and whether any X-rays or referrals to do an MRI is needed. If you are experiencing any symptoms related to a herniated disc and/or are worried if you require any form of treatment to maintain your spinal health, our certified professionals are ready to help assess and provide the right treatments for you!

Begin your recovery journey today by contacting us for an appointment. 

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