Are You at Risk for a Slipped Disc?



Are You at Risk for a Slipped Disc?
August 19, 2014

A slipped disc is also called a herniated disc. It is a condition in which a damaged disc in the spine bulges out and irritates or pinches the nerves nearby.

Slipped discs are often caused by general wear and tear or disc weakening with age followed by a sudden injury to the disc such as the kind you experience when you lift something that is too heavy.

A large percentage of slipped discs occur in the lumbar, or lower, region of the spine. If a disc has “slipped” or herniated, a patient will feel pain at the sight of the disc injury. If the disc is pressing on nerves, patients can experience pain in the back, buttocks and legs, and have sensory changes such as numbness and tingling that can travel all the way down to the toes.

Preventing a slipped disc means being aware of what your body can handle and using caution when lifting or twisting. If lifting is necessary, stretch before the lift and keep your back straight using your knees and legs to lift. Keep the object close to your center of gravity (your abdomen). If the item you are lifting at all seems like it may need more than one person to lift, do not attempt to lift it yourself. Ask for assistance.

If you have injured your back, stop the activity that caused the pain and call your doctor if the pain is severe or has not resolved in 24 hours. Sometime a slipped disc can be tended to at home with conservative treatments such as anti-inflammatories, rest, and some modified activities. If your doctor feels it is necessary he may also prescribe stronger medication or recommend a steroid injection. But, if all else fails, sometimes surgery is required.

In the case of a contained herniation (no other structures are involved or damaged), a minimally invasive procedure called an endoscopic laser discectomy can be used to repair the disc. This is a procedure where a tiny endoscope is used to visualize the damaged area and a laser is used to repair the disc. The procedure vaporizes the damaged disc material, kills the pain nerves within the disc and hardens the outer wall to help prevent recurrence of the herniation.

Patients who would be considered candidates for an endoscopic discectomy have had ongoing lower back pain, which may or may not radiate into the legs, and has persisted for more than eight weeks and has not responded to conservative treatments. A diagnostic MRI must also be obtained to confirm the disc herniation.

An endoscopic discectomy typically takes less than two hours and can be done in an outpatient, day surgery, setting. Alternatively to the older traditional surgeries for a slipped disc, this procedure results in less pain, less risk of infection or other complications, and a much shorter recovery time for the patient. To learn more about what Atlantic Spine Center can offer regarding your back situation, please feel free to give us a call or contact us through our website.