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Slip Disc Causes, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment Options

Slip disc causes, signs, symptoms & treatment option fix & repair damaged, bulging, and herniated discs without injections or surgery. We are pleased to provide you with expert insight into effective non-invasive slip disc treatment options validated by published research and clinically proven success.

Slip disc, also known as slipped disc, is a severe and concerning spinal issue and a leading cause of disability in individuals under 45. Neck and back pain is the most common initial symptom in patients with a slipped disc who never experience back or neck pain. Recovery is possible when you get focused treatments targeting the slip-disc and its root cause with specialized physiotherapy methods combined with slipped-disc-specific chiropractic treatment techniques.

This page covers some background information, including causes, symptoms, and treatment options, to help you understand the non-surgical options available. Before we begin, let’s cover some background information on slipped discs or slip-discs.

A slip disc and slipped-disc are two standard layperson terms used as a “catch-all” for the following seven spinal disc diagnoses:

  1. Disc bulge or bulging disc
  2. Protruded disc or disc protrusion
  3. Disc prolapsed or prolapsed disc
  4. herniation disc or disc herniation
  5. Ruptured disc or disc rupture
  6. Disc extrusion or extruded disc
  7. Fragmented disc or disc fragmentation
  8. Sequestered disc or disc sequestration

Slip discs are reversible and treatable without surgery. For non-surgical treatments to be effective, they must be focused on root causes. Degenerative changes in the spinal discs are the most causative factor in developing a slip-disc. Degenerative changes must be preset for the disc to slip (bulge, protrude, herniated, or extruded). As the degenerative changes progress and the spinal disc weakens, it becomes susceptible to tears and protrusion (slipped disc).

The spinal disc comprises two main parts, the nucleus pulposus (the inner part) and the annular fibrosis or the outer part. The nucleus pulposus is a soft jelly-like structure providing shock absorbance-moreover, moves or wiggles, enabling smooth movements throughout the spine. The annular fibrosis is sturdy and consists of 15-25 rings of consecutive fibrous tissues. The primary function of the annular ligament (annular fibrosis or annular fibrosus) is to support the nucleus during weight-bearing activities or movement. Additionally, it acts as a connector of the spinal bones, called vertebrae.

Depending on its location and severity, a slipped disc results in mild, moderate, or severe & excruciating pain. In addition to neck or back pain, it may lead to intense pain in the arms or leg. Also, paresthesia is common in patients with more extensive or chronic slipped discs.

Paresthesia is an abnormal sensation or burning, tingling, or pricking sensations often reported as “pins & needless in upper extremities (shoulders, arms wrists, hands & fingers) or lower extremities (thighs, legs, feet & toes) resulting from nerve or spinal cord compressing or impingement.

Continued impingement (nerve pressure from a slipped disc) results in nerve damage, which causes numbness and weakness in the arms or legs. Numbness and weakness of the arms and legs are serious health issues because they are the leading cause of paralysis.

Can You Have A Slip Disc & Not Experienced Any Pain?

Slipped disc in the neck or pain often causes neck or back pain. However, it is not unlikely to have a slipped disc and not experience any discomfort. Other symptoms often associated with slip discs are tingling, numbness, or weakness in the arms or legs. Patients with a slipped disc in the neck may experience one or all of the following feelings, symptoms, or sensations:

  1. Pain, numbness, burning during sensation in the neck
  2. Upper back & shoulder blade pain, burning or tingling (pins & needles sensations)
  3. Pain, numbness, or pain that runs down the arms
  4. Numbness and tingling in the hands or fingertips
  5. Weakness or paralysis of arms & legs are the most concerning neck slip disc symptoms because they can lead to paralysis (wrist drop & foot drop)
slip disc in the neck and low back

Wrist Drop & Foot Drop

Weakness, inability, or difficulty lifting the wrist or feet are the hallmark diagnostic signs for wrist & foot drop. The nerves of the wrist and feet come from the spine. Wrist drop or difficulty raising the wrist is primarily caused by a severe slipped neck disc, which compresses or impinges the spinal nerve or the spinal cord. Foot drop is also caused by spinal cord or spinal nerve impingements.

Wrist drops occur with spinal cord nerve issues resulting from a slipped disc in the neck. A severe slip disc in the neck may also lead to foot drop. Foot drop symptoms in patients with severe slip-discs in the neck often accompany wrist drop.

Foot drop and wrist drop are objective findings in slipped disc patients who ignore the initial signs & symptoms of slip disc in the lower back or neck. However, foot drop is often seen in patients with lower back spinal issues. On the other hand, a foot drop can result from cord compression in the neck, upper back, mid-back, or lower back.

What Are Slip Disc Symptoms From The Neck?

A cervical herniated disc or disc bulge is a common cause of neck and upper back pain. A slip disc in the neck can cause neck pain, pain in the shoulder blade, upper back pain, shoulder pain, and tingling or numbness in the arms, hands, or fingers.

The neck has six spinal discs that connect to spinal discs to form motion segments. Motion segments in the spine (neck, upper back, mid-back, and lower back) enable mobility and provide weight-bearing & shock absorbance. The only segment in the neck that does not have a spinal disc is the C1-C2 segment. Here are the motion segments of the neck and their respective spinal disc:

  1. C2-C3 Motion Segment: Connected by the C2 disc (1st spinal disc in the neck), an exit point for the C2nerves on the right and left side of the upper neck, approximately one inch below the skull base.
  2. C3-C4 Motion Segment: The C3-C4 motion segment is an exit point for the C3 nerve and represents the C3 spinal disc (2nd spinal disc in the neck).
  3. C4-C5 Motion Segment: Represented by the third spinal disc in the neck (c4 spinal disc) is the point where the c4 spinal nerve exits the spine.
  4. C5-C6 Motion Segment: The C5-C6 is the most mobile & largest spinal disc in the neck representing the C5 spinal disc (4th disc in the neck), where the C5 nerve originates and exits from the spine.
  5. C6-C7 Motion Segment: The C6-C7 motion segment is located near the top of the shoulder at the bump or bony protuberance where the neck meets the upper back, connected by the 5th spinal disc representing the point where the C6 nerves exit the neck.
  6. C7-T1 Motion Segment: Connects the neck with the upper back (the thoracic spine) through the last disc (6th spinal disc of the neck or the C7 disc in the neck) where the C8 spinal nerve comes out of the neck.

What Is The Common Site Of A Slipped Disc In The Neck?

A neck slip disc can occur at any segment but is the most common on the lower neck C4-C5, C5-C6 & C6-C7. Slipped discs at C2-C3, C3-C6, and C7-T1 are rare. The C5-C6 motion segment is the most common site for slipped discs in the neck.

The C5-C6 is the most mobile of all motion segments in the neck. It is the largest and most significant spinal disc in the neck. Slipped discs in the neck at C4-C5, C5-C6, or C6-C7 are the leading causes of pain, tingling, and numbness in the arms or hands.

Foot and wrist drops are the primary cause of weakness or paralysis of the arms or legs. Moreover, slipped discs in the lower parts of the neck near the top of the shoulders are the leading cause of shoulder pain, numbness, burning, or tingling sensations. Continued or unabated progression of a slipped disc in the neck may result in wrist and foot drops.

How common is a slipped disc in the upper back?

The upper back is not a common site for slipped discs as it is not very mobile. However, the upper back, especially the shoulder blades, are often symptomatic in patients with a slipped neck disc.

slip disc in the neck and back causing pain

What Are Slip Disc Symptoms From The Lower Back?

Back pain or pain in the buttocks, thighs, and legs are common symptoms of a slipped disc in the lower back. Other signs & symptoms of a slipped disc in the lower back include tingling (pins & needles) or numbness in the glutes, hips, thighs, legs, feet, or toes.

Moderate or severe slipped discs in the low back are the primary reason for weakness in the legs. Larger slipped discs that compress the spinal nerve cause nerve damage, which may lead to foot drop or paralysis as the damage process.

Here is a list of all symptoms related to a lower back slipped disc:

  • Stiffness, discomfort & pain in the back, tailbone, buttocks, or legs.
  • Numbness & tingling in legs, feet & toes.
  • Weakness in legs & feet.
  • Loss of bowl & balder control.
  • Abdominal cramps and pain.
  • Sexual dysfunction includes erectile disorders & painful intercourse, especially in women

In rarer cases, a slipped disc can present without any signs or symptoms in the early stages, and as such, they are classified as hidden slipped discs. However, you may feel numbness, tingling, or pain in the legs as they worsen. Also, there are documented cases where patients’ first and only symptom was weakness in the legs or paralysis. Larger slip-disc in the lower back cause dysfunction in reproductive organs and tissues of men and women. Men may present with erectile dysfunction or testicular pain (pain in the scrotum). Women with slip-discs may complain of perineum pain or intimacy pains.

What Is The Common Site Of A Slipped Disc In The Lower Back?

The Lower back is the most common site for a slipped disc, bulging, or herniated disc. The lower back encompasses the lumbar spine, including the lumbosacral and sacroiliac regions. The lumbar spine has five motion segments. Motion segments of the spine are connected with the spinal discs, and they are:

  1. L1-L2: Located below the last floating rib T12 rib is bound by the 1st lumbar disc (L1 spinal disc), where the L1 nerve comes out of the spine.
  2. L2-L3: The 2nd motion segment of the lower back represents the L2 nerve & spinal disc.
  3. L3-L4: This motion segment is formed by the L3 spinal disc ( 3rd disc in the lower back), where the L3 nerve comes out.
  4. L4-L5: Your L4-L5 is at the waist’s beltline connected by the 4th or L4 disc, where the 4th lumbar nerve exits the spine. L4-L5 & L5-S1 slipped disc and back-related pains are common causes of disability in men and women. 
  5. L5-S1: The L5-S1 motion segment is called the lumbosacral spine. It represents the connecting point between the 5th lumbar (L5) and the 1st sacral segment (S1, often referred to as the first sacrum or tailbone. Sciatica and sciatica-like nerve pains are almost entirely related to an L5-S1 or an L4-L5 back-related disorder, such as a slipped disc. 

The L1-L2 and L2-L3 are in the upper parts of the lumbar spine. The L3-L4 motion segment is at the naval level, while the L4-L5 component approximates the beltline (iliac crest). The L4-L5 is the most common site for a lower back slip disc, followed by the L5-S1 and L3-L4.

How To Cure A Slip Disc?

Curing a slipped disc requires precision treatments, lifestyle changes, and avoiding causative factors, including harmful activities to the spinal discs. In other words, you must decrease the bad while increasing the good or beneficial things, such as improving posture and getting the proper treatment to fix and repair underlying causative factors.

Benefits Of Chiropractic Combined With Physiotherapy

Non-rotatory chiropractic treatment combined with slipped-disc-specific physiotherapy methods can heal and repair damaged spinal tissues without injections or surgery. The Activator, Thompson, and SOT techniques are the three non-rotatory techniques in chiropractic.

Patients with slipped discs should avoid the Diversified chiropractic techniques or the Gonstead chiropractic methods. They rely on rotations that may further damage the weak and herniated discs, causing them to slip or bulge further.

Slipped Disc Treatment Options

Slipped disc treatment depends on the severity of your condition and symptoms. In general, there are five different treatment options:

  1. Physiotherapy
  2. Chiropractic
  3. Pain medication (over-the-counter or prescription medication)
  4. Corticosteroid injections
  5. Spine surgery

Non-surgical and non-invasive therapy is recommended by world-renowned medical schools and teaching hospitals, including the Harvard Medical School, Mayo Clinic, and Cleveland Clinic. The best non-surgical option is a combination of physiotherapy with non-rotatory methods of chiropractic. Over 95% of slipped disc patients recover with targeted and customized plans of chiropractic with physiotherapy combined. Visit us today to learn more about the latest methods of slip disc treatment that repair your slipped disc without surgery or injections.

Pain Medication & Corticosteroid Injection For Slipped Disc Patients

You should never take painkillers without the advice and prescription from your medical doctor. Painkillers alone can lead to severe health issues, including heart attacks, strokes, coma, and death.

Doctors often prescribe mild to moderate painkillers with anti-inflammatory effects for patients with slipped discs.

Opioids or stronger painkillers are often prescribed to patients with severe or those who did not respond favorably to Milder painkillers.

Here is a simplified description of some of the meds prescribed by doctors:

  1. Celecoxib (Celebrex): Celebrex is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat acute pain and inflammation
  2. Etoricoxib (Arcoxia): Arcoxia is similar to Celebrex (COX-2 inhibitor) but stronger depending on the dosage. It is primarily used to decrease swelling and pain.
  3. Tramadol (Ultram): An Opioid (narcotic-like painkiller) for moderate or severe pain that can become addictive.
  4. Ultracet (Tramadol with Acetaminophen): Ultracet is a combination of tramadol and acetaminophen prescribed to moderate or moderately severe pain patients.
  5. Duloxetine (Cymbalta): Cymbalta is an antidepressant medication used as a painkiller. It can relieve fibromyalgia and nerve pain caused by peripheral neuropathy; dependency can occur when abused or taken for an extended time.
  6. Amitriptyline (Elavil & Vanatrip): An antidepressant for insomnia and pain. 
  7. Gabapentine ( Neurontin): An addictive anticonvulsant medication primarily used to treat seizures, shingles, and nerve pain
  8. Pregabalin (Lyrica): An addictive anticonvulsant prescription medication used in treatments of epilepsy, nerve pain, fibromyalgia, or restless leg syndrome

Painkillers and muscle relaxers have side effects, including organ damage, stroke, and death. Therefore, avoid taking over-the-counter or prescription medication. Back pain or neck pain will not kill, but neck and back painkillers prescribed to slipped disc patients and sciatica kill thousands yearly.

Please consult your medical physician about your painkillers before taking them.

illustration of horrors of pain mediation used for neck and back

Epidural Injection & Corticosteroid Injections For Slipped Disc Patients

Corticosteroid injections for bulging and herniated disc (slipped disc) patients are provided through epidural injections. Epidural injections are given to pregnant women before childbirth and for back pain and sciatica patients.

The main difference between the epidural injection for pregnant women undergoing birth and those with back pain is that the epidural injections provided for pregnant females during delivery do not contain corticosteroids.

Epidural (corticosteroid) injections will not cure, heal, or make your bulging or herniated disc smaller. Doctors prescribe epidural corticosteroid injections to reduce swelling by eliminating the proteins that cause swelling.

A published study in the Journal of Radiology reported significant side effects from corticosteroid injections. According to the authors, steroid injections can worsen your condition as they can destroy soft tissue, cartilage, and bone. Some published research reports lasting benefits that can be as long as months or years.

Still, the benefits are short-lived for most when steroids are injected into the tissue. Because of the invasive nature of an epidural steroid injection, some may notice increased pain days, weeks, or months following an injection. Moreover, side effects range from progressive or rapid joint & soft tissue damage to irreversible damage to cartilage and bone, coma, and death.

Spine Surgery For Slipped Disc, Sciatica, Neck & Back Pain?

Spine surgery is a treatment option for patients with severe neck and back pain caused by bulging or herniated discs. Neck or back surgery is not a cure and will not heal your bulging or herniated disc.

Experts recommend surgery as the last option because of its complications, including post-surgical pain, blood clots, bleeding, stroke, infections, Dural tears, and death.

Surgery for the slipped disc becomes the last option when the non-surgical options are exhausted.

There are several surgery methods for the spine ranging from minimally invasive approaches to open spine surgery. However, open back or open neck surgery procedures are declining as surgeons can now perform most of them through the keyhole method. We have listed five spine surgical procedures often performed on patients with a slipped disc (bulging & herniated disc)

  1. Laminectomy: A procedure where part of the lamina bone or all the lamina (a bridging bone in the back of the spine) is shaved or removed on one or both sides (partial or complete laminectomy)
  2. Foraminotomy: An invasive surgical intervention designed to widen the opening for the spinal nerve by shaving parts of the spinal disc and bones on one or both sides.
  3. Rhizotomy: A surgery that kills or destroys the nerve that senses neck or back pain.
  4. RFA or radiofrequency ablation therapy: A minimally invasive procedure designed to destroy the disc by heating it in hopes it shrinks. RFA in a double-blind study was not better than fake surgery.
  5. Spinal fusion: A major spine surgery, even if performed through a minimally invasive procedure. Spinal fusion uses rods, bone grafts, and screws to secure two or more spine bones.

Chiropractic Combined With Physiotherapy As The Best Treatment Option For Slipped Disc

Bulging, protruded, prolapsed, herniated, ruptured, and extruded discs (slip discs or slipped discs) are repairable and somewhat reversible without medication, epidural, or surgery. Recovery from a slipped disc is interwound with the specificity of the care you get.

Recovery and reversibility are only possible with focused, slip-disc-specific treatments. In other words, typical physiotherapy, rehabilitative, or chiropractic treatments often given to neck and back pain patients are not enough.

NSD Therapy® is one of the most effective non-surgical treatments for a slip disc. NSD Therapy® is a combined or integrative method of non-surgical slipped disc treatment incorporating evidence-based systems of slip-disc-specific methods of rehabilitation, physiotherapy, and chiropractic through specialized medical devices that include:

  • Spinal decompression therapy via the RxDecom®
  • High-Intensity Laser Therapy or HILT
  • Shockwave therapy
  • Cryothermal therapy by QMD
  • Electrotherapy & therapeutic ultrasound

NSD Therapy® is one of the best non-surgical methods of spine care. Slip disc in the neck or back is treatable and recoverable through focused non-invasive therapy programs that target damaged spinal tissue.

Get more information on customized slipped disc treatment programs by contacting one of the centers at the bottom of this page.