Debunking the idea that the discs in our spine can slip
For many, pain in the back or neck feels as though it should be concerning, and some people’s minds instantly cast to the idea of a “slipped disk” as the source of this pain (Zhao, Manchikanti, Kaye & Abd-Elsayed, 2019). However, for the most part, this isn’t the case, and even when it is, despite the very common name “Slipped Disc”, the discs within our spine cannot slip.
So, if our discs can’t slip, what actually happens?
Our discs are made up of a tough, fibrous outer layer with a gel-like interior known as the nucleus. Rather than the disc “slipping” out of its usual place in the spine, it is the nucleus inside of that fibrous tissue that begins to push through and occasionally seep out of the disc – this is known as a disc herniation.
Many believe that these disc herniations are a result of trauma to the spine, however, this, along with the idea of discs slipping, can be put down as a myth. Although disc herniation can be caused by traumatic incidents, it is more common than not that they are as a result of genetic predisposition, age, and bad habits, and usually, it’s the sudden movement or injury that brings the symptoms to light.
There are four stages to disc herniations
The nucleus pulposus pushes from the centre of the disc to the outer edge through the annulus fibrosus.
The nucleus pulposus further protrudes and causes the outer layer (annulus fibrosus) to bulge too, potentially pushing on the nerve.
A small amount of the nucleus pulposus begins to leak out of the disc, creating more pressure against the nerve.
Sequestration – The nucleus continues to leak out of the disc to a larger extent.
How do we fix this?
Yet another myth surrounding discs is that they all need to be operated on to be fixed, and fortunately, this isn’t always the case. In many cases, a herniated disc can be treated non-operatively, which should always be the first port of call (Benzakour, Igoumenou, Mavrogenis & Benzakour, 2019).
We will do this through a thorough examination to find the root of your back pain, and if a herniated disc is to blame, followed by encouraging the movement that will promote the nucleus to return to its original position, subsequently reducing your symptoms.
Additionally, strength work will be incorporated into the rehab plan with the aim of equipping the back to take the strains of day-to-day life to help reduce the likelihood of the disc herniating again.
Much like many injuries, the symptoms you are feeling in your back or neck may not be attributed to a herniated disc. If you’re unsure what is causing your symptoms, get in touch with us or book online so one of our therapists can help you out.
Benzakour, T., Igoumenou, V., Mavrogenis, A. F., & Benzakour, A. (2019). Current concepts for lumbar disc herniation. International orthopaedics, 43(4), 841-851.
Zhao, L., Manchikanti, L., Kaye, A. D., & Abd-Elsayed, A. (2019). Treatment of discogenic low back pain: current treatment strategies and future options—a literature review. Current pain and headache reports, 23(11), 1-9.