Symptom, Causes and Diagnosis of Slipped Disc

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A Man Who Sitting on His Bed Have Slipped Disc | Avant Orthopaedics

What is a Slipped Disc?

A slipped disc, also known as a herniated disc, happens when the soft inner core of a disc, called the nucleus pulposus, pushes through the tough outer layer, called the annulus fibrosus. While most slipped discs occur in the lower back, it can also happen in the neck. However, no matter where it takes place, this condition can put pressure on nearby nerves, leading to pain, numbness, or weakness in the affected area.

What are the Symptoms of a Slipped Disc?

This is a common symptom among those with a slipped disc. The limbs that are affected will differ according to the location of the condition.


  • Neck

Slipped discs in the neck can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. 


  • Upper back

While less common, slipped discs can occur in the upper back, causing pain and discomfort in the mid-back region.


  • Lower back

Slipped discs in the lower back are the most common. They can cause discomfort, pain, and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and feet.

Your muscles may feel weaker than usual, especially around the location of where the slipped disc is. This can cause difficulty when walking or holding items.

You may feel tingling or burning around the affected area as the inner core of the disc pushes on a nerve. These sensations may be felt in the area where the nerve is affected, such as the back, arms, legs, or neck.

The pain caused by a slipped disc may worsen with certain movements or activities, such as bending, lifting, or twisting. This pain may be sharp or shooting and may be accompanied by muscle spasms.

What are the Differences Between a Slipped Disc and a Bulging Disc?

A slipped disc and a bulging disc are two conditions which are often mistaken for each other. Below is a table detailing the differences between them.

Slipped Disc (Herniated Disc)
Bulging Disc


The soft inner core of the disc protrudes through the tough outer layer.

The disc bulges outwards, but the outer layer remains intact.


  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Pain (may be less severe than a herniated disc)
  • Numbness (less common)
  • Weakness (less common)


It can occur in any part of the spine but is most common in the lower back or neck.

It can happen in any part of the spine.


May cause severe symptoms, especially if the protruding disc compresses a nerve.

Symptoms may be less severe, as the disc is not pressing on a nerve.

While a bulging disc is considered less severe, it is important to note that with time, it can progress into a slipped disc.

A Woman Can Get Slipped Disk | Avant Orthopaedics

What are the Common Causes of a Slipped Disc?

As we age, our discs begin to lose their elasticity and have an increased risk of damage with falls or strains. This degradation may also weaken the outer shell of the disc, allowing the inner core to bulge out and press on surrounding nerves.

When you slouch or hunch for long periods, it can place excessive strain and pressure on your neck and spine, increasing the risk of a slipped disc. Whether studying or at work, remember to take regular breaks to stand and stretch to alleviate the tension in your muscles.

Physically strenuous jobs such as those which require frequent lifting of heavy objects, and repetitive twisting and bending can increase the risk of a slipped disc. Occupations which require prolonged sitting and standing can also put excessive strain on the spine and discs. Individuals in such jobs need to take regular breaks as well as consider using ergonomic equipment to lower the pressure on their neck and spine.

Falls, car accidents, and sports injuries can result in a slipped disc. The force of impact can cause the outer shell of the disc to tear and the contents to spill out.

How is a Slipped Disc Diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine your back or neck for tenderness and abnormalities. You may also be asked to describe the sensation of discomfort in detail for them to gauge the severity of the condition. This helps your doctor assess your range of motion, muscle strength, and any signs of nerve irritation or compression.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)


An MRI can pinpoint where the slipped disc is located along with the severity of the condition. This helps your doctor determine whether treatment involves conservative measures such as physical therapy and medication, or more invasive treatments such as surgery.


  • CT scan


The CT scan involves having a series of X-rays taken and combined to create a cross-sectional image of the spine and surrounding structures. This imaging technique provides clear images of the bones, joints, and soft tissues, allowing your doctor to visualise any abnormalities, such as a slipped disc or other spinal conditions.


  • Electromyogram (EMG)


During an EMG, fine needles are inserted into the muscles to record their electrical activity. It helps in identifying any nerve damage or compression caused by a slipped disc.

Sitting for Too Long On Sofa Causes Slipped DIsc | Avant Orthopaedics

Are You or Your Loved Ones Suffering from a Slipped Disc?

A slipped disc can cause pain, numbness, and other sensations of discomfort for you and your loved ones. Book an appointment at Avant Orthopaedics for a consultation and receive recommendations for suited treatments.

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