Discs don’t slip, they split. Discs are a bit like jam doughnuts. They have a fibrous outer with a bubble of sugary solution in the middle (like the jam). The sugary solution draws fluid into the disc via osmosis (remember that from biology days?), and this hydrates the disc keeping it plump and flexible.
If you squash a disc on one side then the bubble of jam is pushed in the opposite direction. Over time, the jam can stretch and tear its way through the disc (a disc herniation). If the jam tears all the way through the disc and bursts out, this is a disc prolapse. Prolonged poor posture can repeatedly stress the disc, pre-disposing to herniation and prolapse. The bulge or jam can put pressure on the nerves, causing local pain and scaitica. That said, in recent years, advances in MRI scanners have shown that in a lot of cases of “slipped discs”, it isn’t actually the disc putting pressure on the nerves. What is actually happening is that the inflammation caused by the disc injury is causing engorgement of Batson’s plexus, which is a mesh of veins that wrap around the nerve and spine. These engorged vessels squeeze the nerve causing the symptoms. It also explains why movement is best when you are suffering from pain as this movement helps clear the fluids from the plexus.
Having a herniation isn’t in itself an issue. Recent research has shown
“The prevalence of disk degeneration in asymptomatic individuals increased from 37% of 20-year-old individuals to 96% of 80-year-old individuals. Disk bulge prevalence increased from 30% of those 20 years of age to 84% of those 80 years of age. Disk protrusion prevalence increased from 29% of those 20 years of age to 43% of those 80 years of age. The prevalence of annular fissure increased from 19% of those 20 years of age to 29% of those 80 years of age.”
So, you can be pain-free whilst having a degenerative disc with or without protrusions. However, they can cause symptoms like:-
- Numbness / weakness in the legs
- Low back pain
- Buttock pain
- Muscle spasm
- Loss of bowel or bladder control / numbness around your anus (these symptoms can be related to corda equina syndrome, and are very very rare but if you suffer these symptoms you need to go straight to hospital).
Osteopaths can help with slipped disc. Correct diagnosis and treatment can dramatically improve recovery, and help prevent re-injury. If you’d like to discuss anything then please do get in touch.