Symptoms and Signs of Slipped Disc (Herniated Disc)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 7/15/2022

Doctor's Notes on Slipped Disc (Herniated Disc)

A slipped or herniated disc refers to an abnormality of the intervertebral discs, which are pads of tissue that serve as cushions between the vertebral bodies in the spinal column (backbone). Abnormal rupture of the disc is referred to as disc herniation or a slipped disc. This most often occurs in the low back, and it may press on the nerve tissue in the spinal nerves adjacent to the area of the rupture.

Signs and symptoms of a herniated disc depend on the level of the spine where the disc herniation occurs. Disc herniation may not cause any symptoms if the nerve tissue is not being compressed or irritated. 

  • If the slipped disc presses on the adjacent spinal nerves, symptoms may include shooting pain in the distribution of that nerve, which usually occurs on one side of the body. 
  • Disc herniation at the level between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae of the lower back (a common location for a herniated disc) can cause shooting pain down the buttock into the back of the thigh and down the leg. 

Other associated symptoms may include weakness, tingling, or numbness.

What Is the Treatment for Slipped Disc?

Treatment for slipped disc varies according to the severity and may include:

  • Non-prescription and prescription anti-inflammatory medications
  • Prescription pain reliever medications
  • Muscle relaxant medications 
  • Drugs that affect nerve signaling, such as gabapentin, dukloxteine, pregabalin, and venlafaxine 
  • Cortisone injections into the affected area 
  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscles
  • Surgery, for more severe cases

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.