Slipped disc

Herniated disc or bulging disc

Ruptured disc nucleus which can cause pinched nerves and back pain


A herniated or 'slipped' disc is when one of the discs separating our vetebrae ruptures. This happens when the disc starts to degenerate, causing the disc to bulge backwards and even split. This can press on the spinal cord or nerves, causing pain. This has in the past been described as ‘Sciatica’ when it presses on nerves in the lower back and causes leg pain.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of slipped disc icon plus

    Not every herniated disc causes symptoms. In fact, many people discover they have a herniated disc after having an MRI scan for an unrelated reason. Most herniated discs occur in your lower back (lumbar spine), although they can also occur in your neck (cervical spine) and middle back (thoracic spine). Symptoms of a herniated disc are:

    • arm or leg pain — herniated discs in your lower back produce pain in your buttocks, thigh and calf; herniated discs in the neck produce pain down the shoulder and arm
    • numbness or tingling
    • weakness in the area served by the affected nerve
  • Screening and diagnosis icon plus

    A consultant will go through your medical history to check for contributing factors such as ageing, exercising too hard, smoking, obesity and heavy lifting. They will also conduct a physical examination and may recommend you have an MRI scan.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    If your herniated disc becomes very painful and does not respond to non-operative treatment, you may need surgery. In most cases the disc is removed with a procedure called a discectomy. In the lower back this is often all that is required but in certain cases your surgeon may decide to replace the disc with a cage which will fuse with the vertebrae over time.

    When a discectomy is done in the neck it is almost always accompanied by insertion of a cage or artificial disc replacement. In both the neck and lower back additional metalwork may need to be inserted to give greater stability. Please discuss these options with your surgeon to decide which is best for you.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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