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Slipped Discs

Many people with back pain are diagnosed as having slipped discs. The symptoms are pain in the back, hips and legs, muscle weakness and even loss of feeling.

The bones of your spine are separated by pads called discs. Since the vast majority of people with slipped discs do not recall hurting their backs, most doctors feel that repeated pressure on the discs gradually wears them down, flattening them like pancakes, which causes pain by pushing on the nerves that exit from the spine.

People who suddenly increase their exercise load often suffer from slipped discs. Muscles, tendons and ligaments are strengthened and thickened by progressive exercise loads, but discs have such a low metabolic rate that they do not become stronger with progressive exercise and can be crushed with repeated pressures on them.

Most people with slipped discs recover with rest, heat, cold, stretching, massage, manipulation, muscle strengthening and pain medication. Some require injections of cortisones or anesthetics into the nerve root. Surgery to hammer and chisel the disc off the nerve may be indicated if the pain is severe or the person loses feeling or muscle control. One key to prevention of disc problems is to always increase exercise and work load slowly and gradually.

By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., for CBS Radio News

Adams MA, Dolan P. Could sudden increases in physical activity cause degeneration of intervetebral discs? Lancet, 1997(Sept 6);350(9079):734-5.

Checked 6/15/14

June 2nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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