Your disc hasn’t actually slipped

It’s a normal day, you bend down to pick something up, and as you go to stand up, you’re overcome with crippling back pain – you find yourself frozen to the spot and in need of some help. There is a good chance you have just experienced an intervertebral disc prolapse or herniation in your lower back, otherwise known as a ‘slipped disc’. 


What is it?

Although a commonly used term, ‘slipped disc’ is actually somewhat confusing and misrepresentative of what happens when a spinal disc is damaged. What is generally referred to as a ‘slipped disc’ is more accurately described as a herniated lumbar disc.

Discs are not solid cartilaginous discs as people often think and can’t simply ‘slip’ in and out. The discs of the spine are comprised of a watery gel-like centre surrounded by a tough, fibrous outer layer.

The tough fibrous part of the disc is attached top and bottom to the adjacent vertebra (spinal bone) and consequently is unable to move. Therefore when a disc is said to have ‘slipped’ this refers to the squeezing out (herniation) of the gel-like substance through the outer fibres of the disc and not a ‘slip’ of the whole disc itself.

According to a medical research paper, the highest prevalence of a herniated disc is among people aged 30-50 years, with a male to female ratio of 2:1.


So what are the causes?

When compressive and rotational forces are applied to the spine (e.g. when heavy lifting) damage may be suffered to the tough, fibrous, outer coating of the disc. As a result of this the gel-like inner substance can start to seep towards the edge of the outer coating, or, in more serious cases can squeeze itself out of the disc causing acute inflammation and irritation to the area.

Once the gel-like centre has squeezed out of the disc there is no way for it to go back in and it therefore sits in the spinal canal causing inflammation and irritation to the surrounding tissues and nerves until the body is able to break it down and resolve the problem on its own.

That said, there are ways to help alleviate the pain while the body heals. Tune into next week’s blog for the full lowdown!


In the meantime, for more advice please do not hesitate to call Not Just Backs on  01722 512 043 or by clicking here.



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