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Herniated Disc

What Is a Herniated Disc?

The spine is composed of a set of individual bones called the vertebrae, each one stacked on top of each other and separated by an intervertebral disc. These discs serve as cushions or shock absorbers between bones and also allow for greater stability and mobility of the spine.

A herniated disc, also known as a slipped disc, occurs when a disc’s jelly-like core (nucleus pulposus) pushes against and bulges out a weakness in the disc’s outer ring (annulus fibrosus). This causes pain and nerve compression, leading to weakness and numbness that extends to the arms or legs. More men than women are afflicted with a slipped disc.

What Are the Causes of a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc is most commonly caused by a progressive wear-and-tear condition known as disc degeneration. With age, these spinal discs naturally lose their water content, making them less flexible and prone to injury and herniation. An injury, sudden twisting or jerking movements, lifting heavy objects and placing excessive pressure on the spine may also contribute to a slipped disc.

What Are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?

Symptoms vary depending on the location of the herniated disc, and typically affect only one side of the body. They include:

Sciatica

  • Sciatica refers to a sharp pain that starts on the lower back and extends down to the buttocks, thigh, calf and foot. If the slipped disc is situated in the neck area, the pain can radiate to the shoulder and arm.

Numbness or tingling

  • In cases where a slipped disc is causing nerve compression, numbness and a tingling sensation may be felt in the affected area.

Weakness

  • Similarly, nerve compression can cause supporting muscles to weaken, causing difficulties in walking, lifting or holding items, or doing other actions.

Incontinence

  • In serious cases, a slipped disc can cause compression in the nerves responsible for bladder and bowel control. Here, surgery may be the recommended slipped disc treatment in Singapore.

In some cases, a herniated disc can show no symptoms, and is simply incidentally detected during a spinal imaging.

What Are the Risk Factors of a Herniated Disc?

A physical exam will involve asking the patient to perform certain movements to determine the location, nature and severity of the pain.

Nerve tests may also be done to determine how fast electrical nerve impulses travel through the nerve, and how the muscle responds to electrical activity while active and at rest. This can determine whether there is nerve compression or damage.

Imaging tests may also be required to clearly visualise the spine, including X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans and myelograms.

What Are the Treatments for a Herniated Disc?

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, slipped disc treatment in Singapore ranges from lifestyle modifications to herniated disc surgery. An orthopaedic surgeon may recommend the following:

Diet and lifestyle modifications

  • Maintaining a healthy weight avoids adding stress on the spine. Exercises can help strengthen the bones and make them more flexible.

Medications

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be taken to relieve mild to moderate pain. In more serious cases, the doctor may prescribe steroid injections.

Physiotherapy

  • Certain exercises can help strengthen and increase the mobility and flexibility of the spine; as well as manage chronic pain.

Herniated disc surgery

  • If symptoms do not improve, or are too serious as it is, slipped disc treatment in Singapore may require surgery. The most common herniated disc surgery is microdiskectomy, which involves the removal of the protruding part of the disc. Rarely, the entire disc is removed and replaced with an artificial one, or the bones fused.

The most suitable herniated or slipped disc treatment in Singapore will be determined by the orthopaedic surgeon, who will assess each patient on a case-by-case basis.

Dr Chua Soo Yong of Atlas Orthopaedic Group is a Singapore orthopaedic surgeon who has over 20 years of experience in the management of back and neck issues, including herniated discs. Schedule an appointment today by calling 6262 0555.

Dr Chua Soo Yong Consultant Orthopaedic & Spine Surgeon
MBBS (S’pore), MRCS (Edinburgh), MMed (Ortho), FRCS (Ortho), FAMS (Ortho)

Dr Chua is an Orthopaedic and Spine Specialist with over 20 years of experience treating back and neck issues, which are commonly associated with the spine.

He is particularly passionate about treating conditions of the spine not only because it relieves pain, but because it also has the potential to reverse paralysis to a certain extent, which means a great deal to patients.

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