A slipped disc occurs when one of the small fibrous discs between each of your spinal bones slips out of place and bulges into your spinal canal. The bulge puts extra pressure on nerves in the surrounding tissue, which instigates pain in your neck or back. It is also known as a herniated or ruptured disc. Disc slippage happens most often in the lower lumbar region of the back, but it can occur in the cervical neck region as well. Slipped discs rarely appear in the mid-back thoracic area.
Vertebral bones of your spinal column run down your back to protect the nerves extending from your brain. Each vertebral bone is separated by a disc. Each disc is made of a strong outer fibrous region and a central gel-like zone. The discs allow flexibility of your spine and act as shock absorbers during physical activity. Weakened or damaged areas of the spinal column or the surrounding muscles, may allow a disc to shift out of position during strenuous activity and causes neck or back pain.
A slipped disc can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the location and the amount of slippage. You may feel a sudden pain, mild tingling, a dull ache or a burning pain. With a slipped disc in your lower back you may feel pain or numbness and pain down the back of one leg, possibly reaching your foot. Also, bladder or bowel problems can occur. If the slipped disc is in your neck, pain may occur in your neck, shoulders or arms. Sometimes the pain is sharp and sudden, while other times it gradually increases in intensity.
Cause of Pain
Neck pain and back pain from a slipped disc has two possible causes. The first one is from a pinched nerve. As your nerves travel down your spinal column, large nerve roots branch out from between each vertebra. When a slipped disc bulges out of position, it can put pressure on the branching nerve roots and cause pain. This type of pain can be referred to other parts of your body, such as your arms, legs and feet.
Disc pain is a second type of pain that can occur from a slipped disc. As the disc degenerates, the disc space itself can become a source of pain. As you age, your spinal discs lose water and become stiffer, while ligaments surrounding your spinal column get weaker. Smaller discs and weakened ligaments make it easy for simple twisting movements to cause a slipped disc.
Complete diagnosis by a physician and early treatment with rest, exercise and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications is likely to help treat pain from a slipped disc. Ice and heat treatment, as well as muscle relaxants or corticosteroid injections can help further. In unresolved cases, surgery to remove the injured disc is a last option for elimination of neck and back pain from a slipped disc.