Often a slipped disc causes severe neck pain or lower back pain. Don’t ignore the persistent neck pain or the pain that is one of the pain that travels along both arms. Nor should you overlook the lingering lower back pain that radiates to your legs and buttocks. All of these are warning signs of a possible slipped disc, also known as a herniated disc. Although typical muscle ache appears to be concentrated within the injured muscle, discomfort from a slipped disc continues to radiate to the back, neck, or legs depending on which section of the spine is affected. When a slipped disc presses on the spinal cord or pinches a nerve, the pain is accompanied by numbness, a tingling sensation and muscle weakness. These symptoms can affect the coordination of the limbs, or the ability to lift and carry objects.
The human spine consists of twenty-four bones which are called vertebrae. There is a small, spongy disc in between each vertebra that acts as the cushion or shock absorber for the spine. These discs maintain flexibility in the spine. If the outer layer of the disc ruptures or cracks, a slipped disc or herniated disc occurs, exposing the inner soft, jelly-like substance that now protrudes out. The body might turn the slipped disc into a fibrous scar tissue known as a bone spur in an attempt to heal the crack. A slipped disc can occur anywhere along the spine, but the lower back (lumbar spine) and sometimes the neck (cervical spine) are usually affected.
Because of ageing the spinal discs lose their elasticity, they become more prone to tear. Any activity that exerts too much pressure on the spine, such as lifting heavy items, can result in one or more discs being slipped.
- Pain is mild to sharp in the neck, shoulders or lowers back.
- Numbness, tingling or weakness in one arm or one hand (slipped neck disc)
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness of the legs, feet or buttocks (slipped back disc)
- Shooting pain while you sneeze or cough
- Loss in bowel or bladder control
Typically a slipped disc heals on its own within 4 to 6 weeks. During this time stop bending, lifting and sitting for prolonged periods. If the slipped disc causes severe back pain, lying on a firm surface or mattress, take 1 to 2 days of strict bed rest. After that, you can resume light physical activity to keep your spine flexible. Your doctor will recommend pain relief and anti-inflammation medicines, muscle relaxants, and physical therapy to help relieve your symptoms. One in 10 slipped-disk cases would require surgery. When you have trouble walking or standing, or experience gradual muscle weakness and dysfunction of the bladder and bowel, surgery is advised to prevent permanent damage.
- Maintain a healthy weight to reduce back pressure on the discs
- Moderate and regular exercise (e.g. brisk walking and swimming);
- Keep a healthy posture when sitting or standing.
- Move heavy things properly (use your hands, not your back to lift – bend your knees, squat and lift)
For any neck pain or backache that restricts your movement, triggers numbness, tingling and muscle weakness, or loss of control of bowel and bladder, you should seek medical attention. Click the following link to learn more about back pain treatment in Singapore.