A spinal disc herniation, informally and misleadingly called a “slipped disc”, is a medical condition affecting the spine, in which a tear in the outer, fibrous ring of an intervertebral disc allows the soft, central portion to bulge out. Tears are almost always posterior-ipsilateral in nature due to the presence of the posterior longitudinal ligament in the spinal canal. This tear in the disc ring may result in the release of inflammatory chemical mediators which may directly cause severe pain, even in the absence of nerve root compression. This is the rationale for the use of anti-inflammatory treatments for pain associated with disc herniation, protrusion, bulge or disc tear.
Disc herniations can occur from general wear and tear, such as jobs that require constant sitting, but especially jobs that require lifting. Traumatic (quick) injury to lumbar discs commonly occurs from lifting while bent at the waist, rather than lifting while using the legs with a straightened back. Minor back pain and chronic back tiredness is an indicator of general wear and tear that makes one susceptible to herniation on the occurrence of a traumatic event from bending to pick up a pencil or a traumatic injury from a fall. When the spine is straight, such as standing or lying down, internal pressure is equalized on all parts of the discs.
Symptoms of a Herniated Disc
Symptoms can range from little or no pain if the disc is the only tissue injured, to severe and unrelenting neck or low back pain that will radiate into the regions served by affected nerve roots that are irritated or impinged by the herniated material. Often, herniated discs are not diagnosed immediately, as the patients come with undefined pains in the thighs, knees or feet. Other symptoms may include sensory changes such as numbness, tingling, muscular weakness, paralysis, paresthesia and affection of reflexes.