A slipped (or herniated) disc is a soft, gel-like portion of a spinal disc that protrudes out from between the vertebrae, due to the connective tissue surrounding the disc having broken down, resulting in pain and immobility.
In the majority of cases, the protruding disc will eventually shrink back to its original position naturally, causing pain to ease, as the disc is no longer placing pressure on the affected nerve. Recovery from a slipped disc usually takes from four to six weeks.
The cause of the connective tissue in the spine breaking down is not always obvious, although slipped discs are notably more common with increasing age, as the spinal discs become drier, less flexible and more likely to rupture.
Common causes of a slipped disc include incorrect bending or lifting posture; regularly sitting for long periods, such as driving; obesity; weight-bearing sports and occupations; smoking; and trauma injury, such as a road accident or a fall.
Treatment can include one or more of the following:
- Staying active
- Regular light exercise
- Steroid injections
- Muscle relaxants
- Anti-inflammatory painkillers
- Surgery / laser surgery – if symptoms persist
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