Herniated disc / Slipped disc

September 5, 2015

A herniated disc, commonly called a slipped disc, is a condition where the jelly-like material in the spine moves out (slips out) of its confined space. This may result in irritation or pinching of nerves in the vicinity of the slipped disc. If the slipped disc occurs in the neck (cervical spine), one can get pain or tingling down the arms and even numbness in the hands. When the disc occurs in the lower back (lumbar spine), similar symptoms can occur down the legs or feet. Terms such as radiculopathy (caused by a pinched nerve) or sciatica (shooting pain down the leg) are used to describe such symptoms. Rarely, a large portion of the disc comes out and can cause severe weakness of the arms, legs or nerves to the bladder or bowel. This condition is serious and an urgent medical consult should be made.


An MRI (magnetic resonance image) of the spine can diagnose a slipped disc. Most patients with a slipped disc improve with non-operative measures such as physiotherapy, traction, brace, medications and/or injections. Surgery (discectomy) is sometimes required which can be done as an open surgery or minimally-invasive spine surgery. In the neck, a cervical disc replacement (where the disc compressing the nerve is removed and replaced with an artificial disc) or a cervical discectomy and fusion (where the disc is removed and the 2 spine segments are fused) can be done. There are some treatments that have been described such as nucleoplasty/annuoloplasty or injections of platelet rich plasma (PRP).