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Slipped Disc

A slipped disc, also called a prolapsed or herniated disc, occurs when one of the discs of the spine is ruptured (split) and the gel inside leaks out. This causes back pain and can also cause pain in other areas of the body.

The spine

The spine is made up of 24 individual bones called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of each other. Discs are the protective, circular pads of cartilage (connective tissue) that lie in between the vertebrae. The discs are responsible for cushioning the vertebrae when jumping or running.

The spinal cord is a collection of nerve fibres that are attached to the brain and are protected by the spine. Nerve fibres from the spinal cord pass between the vertebrae as they take and receive messages to and from different parts of the body.

A slipped disc

The discs are made from a tough, fibrous case, which contains a softer, gel-like substance. A slipped disc occurs when the outer part of the disc ruptures, allowing the gel inside to bulge and protrude outwards between the vertebrae.

The damaged disc can put pressure on the whole spinal cord or on a single nerve fibre. This means that a slipped disc can cause pain both in the area of the protruding disc and in any part of the body that is controlled by the nerve that the disc is pressing on.

How common is a slipped disc?

Slipped discs are most common in people between the ages of 30 and 50. The condition affects twice as many men as women.

A slipped disc occurs most frequently in the lower back, but any disc can rupture, including those in the upper back and neck. Around one-third of adults in the UK have lower back pain, and a slipped disc is responsible for less than 5% of cases.

Prognosis

It can take around four to six weeks to recover from a slipped disc. In most cases treatment involves a combination of physical therapy, such as exercise and massage, and medication to relieve the pain.

In severe cases, or if the pain continues for longer than six weeks, surgery may be considered. A number of different procedures can release the compressed nerve and remove part of the disc. The success rate for surgery on the lumber (lower) spine is around 60-90%.

Contact London Spine Specialists

For further questions relating to Slipped Disc or to book an appointment, call us on 020 3370 1030 or email spinespecialists@hje.org.uk

Spine Clinic

The Spine Clinic at St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is a centre for excellence in the diagnosis, intervention and aftercare of all spinal conditions.

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Patient information

Our Hospital is renowned for providing exemplary levels of care across more than 90 services. From orthopaedics, to urology, our private GP practice and Urgent Care Clinic, our services are led by some of London’s leading Consultants. For more information, and to find a service suitable for your care, find out more about the services that we offer.

Make an enquiry

If you have any questions relating to treatment options or pricing information, get in touch with us by filling out one of our contact boxes or giving us a call on 020 3370 1030.

Our Appointments Team have a dedicated and caring approach to finding you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist.

If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP for a consultation. You can simply refer yourself* and book an appointment.

If you have health insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa Health, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation before any treatment, and in most cases you will also require a referral letter from your GP.

If you are not registered with a GP, we have an in-house private GP practice you can use. Alternatively, we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstances.

*Please note – for investigations such as X-rays and MRIs, a referral will be required. However, we may be able to arrange this for you through our on-site private GP.

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