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Steve asked...

Slipped disc

I had lower back problems around 15 or more years ago, which was eventually diagnosed as a disc slightly rubbing. This has caused me no more than relatively minor discomfort over the years, but in the past 36 hours my back has siezed up, with the pain close to where it was before (not exactly though). It is making it hard for me to move after sitting in one position for a while and I need to see someone fairly urgently. Do I need to go to the doctor first? This may take some days and the pain is quite severe.Thanks

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The answer

From what you have explained, it sounds like you have a slipped disc in your lumber area of the spine. Unfortunately through wear and tear, and movement, our discs do degenerate over the years. You describe that your disc was rubbing; this would indicate that the gel at the centre of your disc would be protruding through and touching a nerve. A slipped disc occurs when the outer case of the disc splits, resulting in the gel inside completely bulging out of the disc.

The pain you are experiencing will be because the nerve radiates pain down your lower back and potentially to your leg, tracking down the sciatic nerve.

Diagnosis of slipped disc can be done by a physical examination by your GP and investigations such as an MRI scan. An MRI scan uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.

Treatment of slipped discs can include rest, exercises and analgesia, or pain relieving injections and surgeries, depending on the severity of the slipped disc. We would urge to go see your GP as soon as possible to get appropriate treatment. In the mean time, we would suggest using regular paracetamol and ibuprofen as prescribed on the medication packets, if it is safe for you to do so. If in doubt, please consult your GP. Applying heat packs or a tens machine may also help relieve some of the discomfort and stiffness you are feeling. It would be wise to rest a bit but you must endeavor not to rest too much, as it could cause symptoms to worsen.

When you see your GP, they should investigate things further and may also provide you with other analgesia and muscle relaxants to help you further. Your GP, if they feel there is a problem, should refer you for further investigations and physiotherapy.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

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