What Causes a Slipped Disc?

man in bed with back pain A slipped disc is a common injury that can cause pain, weakness, and other symptoms in the back and even your arm or leg.

In this blog, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steven Schiebert of New Jersey Spine Surgeons explains more about slipped discs, include what can cause them.

What is a slipped disc?

A slipped disc – which is sometimes also called a herniated or ruptured disc – is a problem with one of the shock-absorbing rubbery cushions (discs) between the bones in your spine (vertebrae). These discs have a harder exterior with a softer interior, and although the discs themselves don’t actually slip, the gel-like insides push out through a tear in the harder exterior.

As a result, this injury can put pressure on your spinal cord or adjacent nerves and cause pain, numbness, or weakness. These symptoms can occur at the site of the slipped disc or in an area supplied by that nerve, such as an arm or leg.

What causes it?

In some cases, the exact cause of a slipped disc can’t be determined. It may be caused by any of the following:

  • Disc degeneration – age-related wear and tear that causes your discs to lose water content and flexibility, becoming more likely to tear
  • Lifting – using your back to lift large, heavy objects or twisting and turning while you’re lifting
  • Trauma – a fall or blow to the back (although this cause is less common)

In addition, the following can increase your risk of developing a slipped disc:

  • Being overweight – puts extra stress on your discs
  • Having a physically demanding job – repetitive actions such as lifting, pulling, pushing, and twisting can increase your chance of back problems
  • Being genetically predisposed – to developing this type of injury

What are the treatment options?

The goal of treatment is to alleviate pain, weakness, and other symptoms. In many cases, conservative treatments are the first that will be tried, although the treatment you’ll receive depends on your particular needs and symptoms.

Conservative treatment options can include:

  • Rest or limited activity for a few days, followed by a gradual increase in activities
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Over-the-counter or prescription pain medication
  • Anticonvulsant medication (to relieve radiating nerve pain)
  • Muscle relaxer medications (to treat muscle spasms)
  • Cortisone injection (to reduce swelling and inflammation and irritation on adjacent nerves)

Surgery may sometimes be necessary if your symptoms are severe, get worse over time, or aren’t relieved enough by conservative treatments.

Where can you find treatment?

New Jersey Spine Surgeons provides comprehensive and compassionate care for spinal issues. We recommend the most effective, least invasive treatment options, often starting with a conservative form of treatment. When surgery is needed, our expert orthopedic spine surgeons use minimally invasive techniques whenever possible, leading to better outcomes and quicker recovery.

If you’re experiencing pain, numbness, or weakness in your back, arm, or leg, make an appointment today for an evaluation with New Jersey Spine Surgeons by calling (844)-7-NJSPINE. We’ll help you get the relief you need while preserving your motion and function.

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