Slipped Disc | Disc Protrusion. Spinal discs are tough, rubbery cushions between spinal bones. Spinal discs have a soft center (nucleus pulposus) surrounded by a tough outer ring (annulus fibrosus). A herniated disc is often called a ruptured disc or a slipped disc, because it literally cracks upon injury. When the outer ring cracks and the center spills out it is considered herniated. A herniated disc causes symptoms when it physically pushes on structures that it is not supposed to be in contact with. It also acts as a chemical irritant to the surrounding tissues. Advanced imaging, such as MRI, is used to formally diagnose a slipped disc and disc herniation.
Slipped Disc Symptoms
The majority of slipped disc or spinal disc herniations occur in your low back, although they can also occur in your neck. Signs and symptoms vary depending on the spinal level, and whether or not there is nerve impingement. Although disc herniations can affect both sides of your body, they typically only affect one side of the body at a time. The most common symptoms of a disc herniation are pain, numbness and weakness to an arm or a leg. Many patients are asymptomatic, while others experience 10 out of 10 pain.
*Numbness or tingling: It is common for patients to state that they have local symptoms or symptoms that travel or radiate to body parts affected by that nerve.
*Arm or leg pain: Low back herniations affect the buttocks, thigh, leg or foot. While neck herniations can result in hand, arm or shoulder pain. Pain due to disc herniations are oftentimes worsened when a patient coughs or sneezes, and is described as sharp or burning pain.
*Muscle weakness: Patients report having a tough time with hand strength and lifting or holding items when they have a cervical disc herniation. Patients with low back herniations report leg weakness, feeling uneasy on their feet and even stumbling.
Please note that mild disc herniations can be asymptomatic for years, and most do not go away on their own.