A slipped disc is a common term for a herniated disc, which occurs when the central core of a spinal disc ruptures. Fluid from within the disc then leaks into the spinal canal, where it can interfere with the functioning of nerves. A slipped disc in the spine is the last stage in a degenerative disc disease process that begins with a bulging disc and progresses to a protruding disc, before it finally ruptures. The “slipped disc” has not actually shifted position. Symptoms of slipped disc vary depending on the location of the slipped disc in the spine, and the extent of the rupturing. A slipped disc may be entirely unnoticeable if it doesn’t result in pressure on a nerve. A slipped disc in the neck (a slipped cervical disc), may cause pain or numbness in the shoulders, arms or chest. A slipped disc in the lower back (a slipped lumbar disc) may cause sciatica, creating pain anywhere from the buttocks to the feet.
The main causes of slipped disc are spinal degeneration from the natural aging process, or from injury such as improper lifting of heavy objects or poor body mechanics that put unnatural stress on the spinal column. Smoking and excess body weight also increases the risk of developing a slipped disc. Sudden trauma such as an automobile accident rarely causes slipped disc. Treatments for slipped disc include slipped disc exercises and physical therapy, medication to relieve pain and pressure on spinal nerves, and in some cases surgery for slipped disc. Spinal fusion back surgery is often performed in conjunction with surgery for a slipped disc. The fusion stabilizes the spine, but eliminates the natural independent motion of the now-fused vertebrae. Today many patients are choosing the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System as an alternative to spinal fusion surgery. The TOPS solution provides better clinical outcomes and preserves the independent motion of the vertebrae. This is just one of the advances bringing new and better therapies to back patients worldwide.