• Ebony Jacklin, Osteopath

OsteoBlog: Slipped Disc?

Have you ever thought that you may have slipped a disc?

Have you then considered what this actually means or how it may have happened?

Hopefully you'll be able to find the answer to these questions in this blog.


The spine is made up of 33 bones - these bones are called vertebrae. There are 7 bones in the neck (cervical spine), 12 boned in the upper and mid back (Thoracic spine), 5 bones in the lower back (lumbar spine), 5 fused bones that make up the sacrum and finally 4 bones which make up the coccyx (the tail bone).

The structure between each vertebra is known as the intervertebral disc. The thickness of the disc increases towards the bottom of the spine. However, there is no intervertebral disc between the 1st and 2nd cervical vertebra (C1/C2) in the neck. The last functioning disc is between the last lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum (L5/S1). The primary function of a disc is to act as shock absorber which allows it to act against the compression forces between vertebrae.

The intervertebral disc is made up of 2 compartments:

1. The outer portion of a disc is called the annulus fibrous.

2. The centre portion is called the nucleus pulposus. The centre of the disc is soft and almost jelly like.


A ‘slipped disc’ is also known as a disc prolapse or a herniated disc. A disc prolapse is not a result of the intervertebral disc slipping out of the spine. What has actually occurred is the nucleus pulposus (the soft jelly like centre of the disc) has pushed through a weak part of the annulus fibrosus (The outer part of the disc, which surrounds the nucleus pulposus).

The most common disc prolapses are those in the Lumbar spine. However, it is possible to prolapse a disc in the mid/upper back and the neck.


There are many causes that can lead to an individual to suffer from a disc prolapse. The pain levels will also vary from person to person, with some people not experiencing any pain at all. Common causes can include heavy lifting with poor mechanics, smoking or increasing age leading to degenerative changes of the spine and the intervertebral disc.


  • Back pain

  • Nerve root pain - A Nerve exiting the spine has its own individual course to supply different parts of the body. Nerve root pain can occur when the nerve leaving the spine is irritated by the inflammation caused by the disc prolapse. Depending where that nerve supplies, you may feel pain in areas away from the back. Eg in the foot or leg

  • Numbness or tingling in an extremity.

  • Weakness in an extremity

  • Pain on movement.

If you experience any symptoms below then you should contact your GP or visit A&E:

  • Problems with bowel or bladder habits

  • Numbness in the saddle area (around the bottom or anus)

  • Weakness in 1 or both leg.

  • Back pain with a fever

  • Back pain and unexplained weight loss

  • Back pain with trauma.


Once you have discussed your symptoms and have been examined by your health care professional, a diagnosis can normally be made. In most cases symptoms generally settle within a few weeks, but if they persist then a scan, such as an MRI scan could be useful.


Your GP may prescribe you with pain killers

A form of hands on therapy such as physiotherapy or osteopathy, maybe useful.

In some cases surgery could be an option.

Remember to try and stay as mobile as possible and try to continue with normal activities.


Boots webMD. (2018). Back pain guide . Available: Last accessed 23/01/18.

Moore,K.L., Dalley, A.F., Agur, A.M.R (2010). Clinically Oriented Anatomy. 6th ed. Baltimore: Wolters Kluwer, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 465.

Nall,R. (2016). Slipped (herniated) Disc . Available: Last accessed 23/01/18.

NHS . (2018). Slipped Disc. Available: Last accessed 23/01/18.

Scioscia, T. (2017). Spinal Discs. Available: Last accessed 23/01/18.

Tidy, C. (2015). Slipped Disc (Prolapsed Disc). Available: Last accessed 23/01/2018

Thanks for reading.

For osteopathy in High Wycombe and beyond please call Lucy or Ebony from OsteoFusion on 07833 321604 or visit

#Slippeddisc #Discproblems



  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon