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  • Sarah Morton | Chartered Physiotherapist

Do I have a Slipped Disc?

If you have acute back pain, can you tell if it is being caused by a slipped disc (AKA a prolapsed or bulging disc), or if it is a more simple (but still painful) muscle spasm? It is not always possible to tell the difference - both can be extremely painful and stop you in your tracks.

There are signs and symptoms which may indicate a disc injury - signs which you should not ignore. If these are present, you should seek help for your back pain quickly. Early diagnosis and help can prevent further damage being done.

  1. How it starts. The onset of pain can be sudden and severe with lifting or sudden motion. But it is often also associated with some days or weeks of having an achey or stiff back which suddenly deteriorates.

  2. Pain in the leg. Pain may be severe in the back, but also will be severe in the leg and/buttock on the side of the injury. This pain is produced by a compressed nerve - compressed or irritated by the prolapsed disc.

  3. Pins and needles/numbness. If the disc is pressing on a nerve, you will feel severe pain, and often pins and needle, and numbness in the part of the leg that the nerve supplies.

  4. Muscle Weakness. In severe cases, there may be weakness in the leg. For example you may not be able to stand on the toes on the affected side (weak calf = S1 nerve root), or you may not be able to walk on your heels.

  5. Type of pain. You might also feel your pain is worse when you sit, and better if you gently walk. Nerve pain from a disc bulge can be a deep ache even when you’re resting, can be like toothache in nature, may also be sharp and shooting with coughing and sneezing. You may feel your pain is worse in the morning, as the disc becomes more engorged over night.

If any or all of these symptoms are present, it is possible you have suffered a disc prolapse. You should seek the advice of your GP or specialist physiotherapist. You will need advice and treatment, and in some cases an MRI scan for full diagnosis.

Onebody Clinic provides expert Physiotherapy treatment for disc injuries and back spasm. Disc injuries respond to treatment such as physiotherapy in the majority of cases. Treatment to reduce spasm, advice to manage pain, and exercise to protect the back are all key ingredients of the managament of a disc injury.

For advice on your back pain from our physiotherapists do get in touch - fill in our contact form or email us direct. Call the clinic and we will call you back ASAP.


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