What is a slipped disc?

A slipped disc involves damage to one of the cartilage discs in the spine where it presses on the nerves. This is commonly known as a herniated disc.


A slipped disc can be triggered by back and neck pain. Other usual symptoms include a tingling sensation, numbness and weakness in other body parts.

The sciatic nerve is often involved in cases of slipped disc. It is an extensive nerve in the body and travels from the back part of the pelvis via the buttocks and down to the legs up to the feet.


The damaged disc places pressure on the entire whole spinal cord or on a single nerve root where the nerve leaves the spinal cord.

In case pressure is applied on the sciatic nerve, it can lead to mild to intense pain in the hip, legs or buttocks. Not all cases of slipped disc can trigger symptoms such as pain, tingling or weakness.

What are the causes?

A slipped disc develops if the circle of connective tissue surrounding the discs breaks down which enables the soft, inner gel-like region of the disc to protrude.

The damaged disc places pressure on the entire whole spinal cord or on a single nerve root where the nerve leaves the spinal cord. Understandably, a slipped disc can trigger pain in the site of the protruding disc and in the area controlled by the nerve that the disc is crushing. It is still uncertain what causes a disc to break down, but age is a usual factor in most cases. As one ages, the spinal discs lose their water content which makes them less flexible and likely to rupture.

Even smoking is linked to a slipped disc since it causes the discs to lose their natural flexibility. Other factors that places increased pressure on the strain on the spine include:

  • Heavy or awkward lifting
  • Bending awkwardly
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being seated for long periods especially when driving
  • Severe injury to the back such as during a fall or vehicular accident
  • Weight-bearing sports such as weightlifting

Management of a slipped disc

It might take 1-3 months to recover from a slipped disc. The treatment typically involves a combination of physiotherapy such as massage and exercise along with medications to lessen the pain.

Surgery might be an option to release the compressed nerve and get rid of part of the disc especially in severe cases or if the pain does not settle over time.

In most instances, a slipped disc eventually shrinks back away from the nerve and the discomfort settles as the disc ceases to press on the affected nerve.

Oftentimes, the slipped disc might continue to press on the nerve but the pain settles since the brain learns to regulate the pain messages originating from the nerve.

It is vital to stay active if the individual has a slipped disc. Take note that movement might be difficult initially but it is recommended to continue moving around after resting for a couple of days. This helps keep the back mobile and stops the joints from stiffening and weakening of the muscles supporting the spine. It is vital to continue moving to hasten the recovery.