A slipped disc is an increasingly common problem and one that you, a friend, or a loved one may have dealt with first-hand. It can be a very painful and debilitating condition for many, and one that have many people going under the knife to try and resolve. But did you know that a slipped disc or bulging disc is a condition that can be successfully treated and rehabilitated without surgery by a chiropractor in Singapore in many cases?
First, let’s discuss briefly what makes up a spinal disc and what happens when it “slips.” The disc has three main components. The annulus fibrosis is a multi-ring structure composing the outer layer of the disc that is made of a relatively hard form of collagen. This helps to protect and hold in the relatively softer gel-like collagen called the nucleus pulposus which gives the disc it’s cushion. Lastly, the endplates of the discs are at either end and help blend the discs into the vertebral bodies (bones).
Due to different reasons which we will discuss below, one is said to have a slipped disc or bulging disc once some of the annular fibres have torn enough to allow the inner nucleus to push outward to the back of the spine. If it bulges enough, it can create local inflammation causing nerve irritation or compromise and symptoms like pain, numbness, or even tingling and weakness into the arms or legs.
It is possible to have a slipped disc in any part of the spine, but the mid to lower neck and the lower back are the two most common areas suffered. When this occurs often a person will often develop local inflammation or swelling around the area, muscle spasms, sharp pains, loss of strength, and other sensations are all possible.
Is a slipped disc the same as a herniated disc?
The terms 'slipped disc' and 'herniated disc' are often used when discussing causes of spine pain and these terms are often used interchangeably. But what do they really mean? Is there really a difference?
The simple answer is, no. The term 'slipped disc' is a simplified term that usually refers to either a herniated or bulging disc. However, both these terms are medically accepted and are frequently used to describe spinal disc pathology and associated pain.
What are the Spinal Cord and the Spinal Canal?
The spinal cord is a long tube-like structure that runs from the end of the brain stem down to the bottom of the spine. Together, the spinal cord and brain make up the central nervous system (CNS). It consists of nerves that are responsible for carrying incoming and outgoing messages between the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord is contained within the spinal canal, which runs through the centre of the spine.
Spinal discs are made up of a tough outer layer, called the annulus fibrosis, as well as a soft, gel-like centre, called the nucleus pulposus. The fibres on the outside of the disc help to attach them to the vertebrae and keep them in place. However, when the tough outer layer of the disc rupture, the nucleus pulposus can leak into the spinal canal which results in intense pain in the back.
In short, slipped discs occur most commonly due to two main reasons:
A) Injuries causing severe stress or trauma to the spine and surrounding tissues. Such as whiplash, landing hard onto your back or tailbone, etc.
B) Poor biomechanics of the joints and tissues with accumulated stress over time. For many of us, prolonged sitting in poor postures or the daily repetitive tasks we do at work and at home put us at risk. Slipped discs can occur at nearly any age, but the risk of accumulated stress and damage to the tissues of course increases with age. Many people will first develop symptoms from their discs in their 30s and relapses of the condition can last for many years until the 50s and above in some cases.
Certain factors may also increase your risk of developing a slipped disc. For instance, a disc can tear and bulge when you’re lifting an object and bending or twisting at the same time. Also, repeated lifting of large and heavy objects can place massive strains on the lower back and may lead to the development of a slipped disc.
If you are overweight and/or lead a sedentary lifestyle this will place you at increased risk. Prolonged sitting at work or home and weakening of critical support musculature may lead to developing a slipped disc as well.
Also known as herniated, bulging or prolapsed disc, a slipped disc can often manifest the following symptoms:
- Pain in the lower back
- Pain and numbness (in one or in some cases both sides of the body)
- Tingling or numbness in the shoulders, back, arms, legs, hands, or feet
- Unexplained muscle weakness
- Neck pain
- Problems straightening the back
- Pain in the hips, legs, or buttocks
- Pain that worsens when walking short distances or after prolonged sitting or standing
Not all people with slipped discs will have symptoms, and the pain/symptoms experienced can vary from one person to another. In fact, many people do not even know that structurally they may have this condition laying in wait in their body. Sometimes the condition may be waiting for one wrong movement or minor injury to trigger the condition and the above symptoms may manifest very strongly and rapidly. That’s why it is best to seek a proper evaluation at the earliest signs of any symptoms of a slipped disc.
At Elite Spine Centres, our doctors of chiropractic are highly trained to evaluate and address slipped disc or degenerative disc issues. At your initial appointment, our chiropractors will go over your medical history, perform a physical exam, and perform neurological and orthopaedic tests when needed. Additionally, studies such as X-rays and/or MRIs may be ordered to confirm your diagnosis and to help shape treatment recommendations.
In some extreme cases where you have an advanced loss of reflexes, sensation, strength, and other unusual neurological findings, you will be referred out to a medical specialist to determine if prompt surgery is necessary.
To treat your slipped disc or degenerative disc, our doctors of chiropractic will develop a personalised treatment plan based upon your specific condition and presentation. Treatments may often include:
- Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression (NSSD) - Our modern equipment is designed specifically to aid in restoring movement and nutrients to affected discs, and over time can help to reduce bulging and associated symptoms.
- Modern Chiropractic Care - Using our signature Functional Correction Method (FCM), our expert chiropractors will not only improve your spinal mobility and alignment, but they will work on releasing tight and damaged soft tissues as well with our whole-body approach.
- Physiotherapy - Once our patients are starting to feel better, we must teach them specific stretching and strengthening exercises so that the condition doesn’t return again down the road.
- Additional Modalities as Needed - Modern therapies like Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) and Radial Shockwave Therapy (RSWT) may also be useful for many slipped disc patients to reduce inflammation and speed up tissue recovery.
The specifics of your slipped disc treatment plan will be based on many factors like your age, level of pain, duration of symptoms, weight, activity levels, and overall health. Rest assured, at Elite Spine Centres you will be in the best hands possible to direct your recovery and allow you to get back to living life to the fullest again!
Author: Dr. Michael Bryant