How Do You Know if You Have a Slipped Disc in Your Back?

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

It’s easy to fear the worst when you get back pain. There can be all sorts of reasons, from strained muscles to trapped nerves, but sometimes it could be a slipped disc. If you’re wondering if it’s something you might be suffering from, here’s what to look out for.


What is a slipped disc?

A slipped disc is when the soft cushion of tissue between the vertebrae of your spine pushes out of place. The tissue bulges out and can put pressure on nerves in the spine, causing pain in the back and other areas.

It can occur in any part of the spine, but it’s most common in the lower back.


Slipped disc symptoms

There are a number of ways to check if you have a slipped disc, though these symptoms could also indicate other issues.

Back or neck pain – particularly in the lower back or in the buttocks or hips

Pain, numbness, or tingling – in your back, shoulders, and limbs, or on one side of your body

Muscle weakness – without any obvious cause

It’s also possible to have a slipped disc with no symptoms at all, and you’d only find out with a spinal x-ray.


How to reduce the pain of a slipped disc

Treating a slipped disc is usually a case of managing the pain and getting some rest. Over the counter painkillers should help, but you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice if it requires something stronger.

Resting can help if the pain and discomfort are debilitating, but you should aim to start moving around and increasing your activity levels as soon as you feel able, as this will help you to recover more quickly.


What causes a slipped disc? 

Generally, it’s hard to pinpoint any exact cause of a slipped disc, though they can sometimes occur from excessive strain on the back, such as lifting a heavy object or moving awkwardly.

The main reason for a slipped disc is age, as the soft tissues of the spine naturally wear and degenerate as we get older, making them more brittle and prone to damage.


Risk factors

As well as age, there are other factors than can increase the risk of developing a slipped disc:

Genetics – a family history of back problems

Weight – Excessive body weight can put more strain on the spine

Your job – more physically demanding occupations that involve heavy lifting, bending, or twisting of the back


How are slipped discs treated?

Usually, a slipped disc doesn’t require surgery and will get better through rest and gentle exercise. This involves strengthening the back muscles and increasing flexibility, helping to avoid muscle weakness and joint stiffness.

It’s natural to feel like you don’t want to do any physical activity at all when you’re in pain, but it’s important to follow advice from your doctor or physical therapist to keep moving and avoid long-term problems.

For more severe cases, where a slipped disc is impairing movement or not getting better, you may be recommended surgery to remove the damaged tissue. Sometimes it may be necessary to replace the damaged disc entirely, substituting it with an artificial one.


Orthopaedics at Ramsay Health Care

Your nearest Ramsay hospital can provide a full range of orthopaedic treatments and services, including advice and support for slipped discs, helping to manage and treat the issue in the most effective way for your needs.

you’d like to talk to us about your options or to make an appointment, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Register your interest to hear from us