Slipped Disc

illustration of a disc
Discs do not actually "slip". Rather, they may herniate or bulge outward. A herniation is a displaced fragment of the center part of the disc.

You may have heard the term "slipped disc" used to describe a low back injury. Discs do not actually "slip." Rather, they may herniate or bulge out from between the bones. A herniation is a displaced fragment of the center part or nucleus of the disc that is pushed through a tear in the outer layer or annulus of the disc. Pain results when irritating substances are released from this tear and also if the fragment touches or compresses a nearby nerve. Disc herniation has some similarities to degenerative disc disease and discs that herniate are often in an early stage of degeneration. Herniated discs are common in the low back or lumbar spine.

What Causes Discs to Herniate?

Many factors decrease the strength and resiliency of the disc and increase the risk of disc herniation. Life style choices such as smoking, lack of regular exercise, and inadequate nutrition contribute to poor disc health. Poor posture, daily wear and tear, injury or trauma, and incorrect lifting or twisting further stress the disc. If the disc is already weakened, it may herniate with a single movement or strain such as coughing or bending to pick up a pencil.

How do I Know if I Have a Disc Herniation?

Herniated discs are most likely to affect people between the ages of 30 and 40. Disc herniations may be present without causing pain. The most common symptom will be pain in the area of the herniation that may radiate across the hips or into the buttocks. You may also experience numbness or pain radiating down your leg to the ankle or foot. If the herniation is large enough, you may notice weakness with extension of your big toe and you may be unable to walk on your toes or heels. In severe cases of lumbar disc herniation, you may experience changes in your bowel or bladder function and may have difficulty with sexual function.

How is a disc herniation treated?

Mild to moderate disc herniations can usually be treated conservatively with stretching, exercise therapy and chiropractic care. More advanced cases will often require some form of spinal decompression, such as traction or mechanical decompression, in conjunction with chiropractic care.

Occasionally, a herniation may be severe enough to warrant surgical intervention. These cases are usually reserved as a last resort when other forms of therapy have failed to relieve pain, or if there is significant compression of the spinal cord or nerves.

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  • "I have had back problems on and off for the past forty years, so I figured I’d just have to live with it like my M.D. told me. I went to see Dr. Bocchino with the hope that he could reduce some of the pain and stiffness that was messing with my golf swing. Well, I wasn’t disappointed. I felt better after the very first treatment. I continue to see Dr. Bocchino and only have minimal stiffness after playing a round of golf and my SCGA handicap index has dropped from 13 to 9!"
    Patrick C.
  • "Four years ago I fell and hurt my back. I was seen immediately by an M.D., given therapy and sent home with a prescription for pain relievers. Since then I have suffered continual back pain and been in agony at times. Upon examining me, Dr. Bocchino immediately discovered the cause - I had three previous compression fractures in my spine. I have been undergoing treatment with Dr. Bocchino for this and am now functioning well enough to be able to swim, ride a bike, sail and above all else sneeze without blinding searing pain!!!"
    Gene M