Prolapsed Intervertebral Disc (Slipped Disc)

Prolapsed Intervertebral Disc is the technical term for what is more commonly known as a slipped disc. These interbertebral discs are located between each of the vertebrae of the spine, and act as cushions or shock absorbers as well as help keep the spine flexible.


These discs are made up of a circle of tough, fibrous connective tissue with a central, gel-like core. Located at the centre of this column of vertebrae and discs is the spinal cord, which stretches from the brain stem to the lower back. There are nerve root connections to the rest of the body located between each of the vertebrae.


What is a Prolapsed Intervertebral Disc (Slipped Disc)?


A prolapsed interertabral disc occurs when the tough, fibrous outer part of the disc ruptures, which allows the gel-like core to bulge and protrude outwards. This damaged disc can then put pressure on the spinal cord or on a single nerve fibre.


This means that not only can a slipped disc cause pain in the area of the disc, but also in the area that the nerve controls, such as an arm or leg. It should be noted that “slipped disc” is something of a misnomer, as the disc is unable to slip or slide. Although a slipped disc can occur anywhere along the spine, it most often occurs in the lower back, between the fourth and fifth vertebrae.


Causes of Prolapsed Intervertebral Disc (Slipped Disc)


It is not always obvious what causes the tough, fibrous connective tissue of the disc to break down. A slipped disc can simply be the result of getting older, as the discs lose their water content with age, making them less flexible and more likely to rupture.


However, there are other factors that can put undue pressure on your spine and cause a rupture, such as bending awkwardly, working a job that has repetitive bending and lifting, working a job that involves a great deal of sitting, especially driving, being overweight, participating in weight-bearing sports like weight lifting, or having been through a traumatic injury, such as a road traffic accident or a fall.


Diagnosis of Prolapsed Intervertebral Disc (Slipped Disc)


If you suspect that you have a slipped disc, your doctor will be able to make a diagnosis from your medical history, symptoms and a physical examination. Your doctor may test your reflexes, walking ability, muscle strength and the sensation in your arms and legs.


This is generally enough to diagnose a slipped disc, but if your doctor needs to be sure or you’re still having symptoms after four to six weeks, he may order a CT scan or an MRI.


Treatment of Prolapsed Intervertebral Disc (Slipped Disc)


Slipped discs usually sort themselves out within four to six weeks, and the only treatment necessary will be a light regimen of exercise and medication to relieve the pain.


Staying active is the best way to treat a slipped disc, and though a few days of rest may be needed at the beginning, you should be able to go back to your usual activities relatively quickly. You may need to start an exercise regimen in order to get fit or stay active, which will help prevent further damage in the future.