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Slipped disc – symptoms, causes and other complications

Slipped disc is also known as herniated disc. The spinal column is made up of a series of bones (called vertebrae) that are stacked onto each other. From the top to the bottom, this column is including 7 bones in the cervical spine; 12 bones in the thoracic spine; 5 bones in the lumbar spine and they are followed by the sacrum and coccyx at the base. The mentioned bones are cushioned by disks. These disks are protecting the bones by absorbing the shocks from the daily activities, such as twisting, lifting and walking [1]. We know that each disc has 2 parts – a tough outer ring and a soft, gelatinous inner portion. Also when there is weakness or injury can cause the inner portion of the disc to protrude through the outer ring. This condition is known as prolapsed, herniated or slipped disc. It is causing pain and discomfort. If the herniated disc compresses one of the spinal nerves, then you can also experience pain and numbness along the affected area. If this is severe, then you may require surgery to repair or remove the slipped disc.

Slipped disc symptoms

You should know that you can have a slipped disc in any part of the spine which is from your neck to the lower back. One of the most common areas for slipped disc is the lower back. The spinal column is an intricate network of blood vessels and nerves. The slipped disc can put extra pressure on the muscles and nerves around it. Here are some symptoms of slipped disc [2]:

  • Tingling, aching or burning sensations in the affected area
  • Unexplained muscle weakness
  • Pain when walking short distances
  • Pain that worsens after standing or sitting
  • Pain that worsens at night or with certain movements
  • Pain that extends to your arms or legs
  • Numbness and pain which is most commonly on one side of the body

The mentioned types of pain can vary from one person to another. If your pain results in numbness or tingling is affecting your ability to control your muscles, then you should talk with your doctor.

Slipped disc

Slipped disc causes 

When the outer ring of the disc becomes weak or torn and this allows the inner portion to slip out, then the slipped disc happens. This condition can happen with age. Also there are some motions which can cause slipped disc. While you are twisting or turning to lift an object, then a disc can slip out of place. When you are lifting a very large and heavy object, then it can place great strain on the lower back which is resulting in a slipped disc. Those people who have a very physically demanding job which requires a lot of lifting are having increased risk of getting slipped disc [3,4]. Also people who are overweight are having increased risk for a slipped disk because their discs must support the additional weight [5]. Sedentary lifestyle and weak muscles can lead to development of slipped disc. You should know that as we are getting older, we are having increased chances of getting slipped disc. Also when we are getting older, the discs begin to lose some of their protective water content. As a result of this, discs can slip more easily out of place. There are some studies in which are shown that the slipped discs are more common in men than women. Also genetics can play a role in slipped disc which means that some people inherit a predisposition to develop slipped disc. [6]

Complications: The spinal cord does not extend into the lower portion of the spinal canal. Just below the waist, your spinal cord separates into a group of long nerve roots (cauda equina) which resembles a tail of horse. There are rare cases when disc herniation can compress the entire cauda equina. The emergency surgery can be required to avoid permanent weakness or paralysis. Here are some complications which can happen with slipped disc and you should seek emergency medical attention in these cases:

  • Saddle anesthesia: This term is referring to a progressive loss of sensation which is affecting the areas that would touch a saddle – the area around the rectum, back of legs and the inner thighs.
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction: Those people who have a cauda equina syndrome can have difficulty urinating even with a full bladder or they can become incontinent.
  • You have worsening symptoms: Weakness, pain or numbness can increase to the point that you cannot perform your usual daily activities.


[1] Times of India. 2018. Everything about slipped disc along with prevention remedies given by doctors. Retrieved from

[2] American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Herniated disc. Retrieved from

[3] Seidler A, Bolm-Audorff U, Siol T, et al. Occupational risk factors for symptomatic lumbar disc herniation; a case-control study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2003;60:821-30.

[4] Hung IYJ, Shih TTF, Chen BB, et al. The roles of lumbar load thresholds in cumulative lifting exposure to predict disk protrusion in an Asian population. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2020;21.

[5] American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Study finds poorer outcomes for obese patients treated for lumbar disc herniation. Science Daily. 2013. Retrieved from

[6] Wang YXJ, Griffith JF, Zeng XJ, et al. Prevalence and gender difference of lumbar disc space narrowing in elderly Chinese men and women: Mr. OS (Hong Kong) and Ms. OS (Hong Kong) studies. Arthritis & Rheumatology. 2013;65(4):1004–10.

Merlin Joy
Merlin Joy
Holding a doctorate degree, Dr. Merlin Joy AKA Sinatra developed passion for home remedies from her mother, grand father and grandmother. Sinatra loves to read books and hiking. You can contact her through [email protected]


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