Slipped disc is a condition commonly seen in patients suffering from leg and back pain. It is important to understand its origin and its treatments. First, the term slipped disc can be confusing and misleading for many patients as it is used to describe many different types of spinal problems. For the purposes of this discussion, slipped disc is a condition commonly known to spine specialists as spondylolisthesis (SPAWN-de-luh-LIS-these-is). Slipped disc does not describe this problem accurately. It is actually the vertebrae that slip on each other in this condition and not the discs.
This slip may be a result of degeneration or trauma or may be present from an early age. It most commonly causes back pain and leg pain but may occasionally cause numbness, tingling and weakness of the legs.
Most of the time, this problem can be treated conservatively by building a strong core of back muscles through physical therapy. Occasionally, medications may be needed to treat this pain. In a small group of patients, this problem will need to be addressed surgically when the symptoms stop responding to conservative measures.
Minimally invasive spine surgery has really advanced significantly in the last decade in the treatment of these problems. Modern neurosurgeons are able to address these problems with a variety of surgical approaches including placement of a plastic or metal cage within the disc space and placement of minimally invasive instrumentation called pedicle screws in the vertebrae.
In properly selected candidates, these procedures yield very high rates of success and long term relief from pain.