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Prolapsed Intervertebral Disc
(Slipped Disc)

Sometimes after a sudden, minor injury, such as bending or twisting, or after repetitive movements, the nucleus pulposis may pass into a crack (fissure) in the annulus fibrosis and pass through the outer shell. The nucleus pulposis contains substances within it that can cause severe inflammation of nerve tissue that it may come into contact with. If this happens there may be severe pain felt into the groin or leg with associated numbness, tingling or pins and needles and muscle weakness if there is significant compression of the nerve.

Illustration showing a herniated intervertebral disc (Axial View.) © Louise Carrier 2007.

Pain can be debilitating but if left alone may settle naturally given enough time. In some patients further interventions such as epidural or microdiscectomy may be required because:

1. Pain is severe and debilitating.

2. Pain shows no sign of improving with time.

3. There is associated loss of sensation or weakness.

If the nerves to the bowel, bladder and genital area are compressed by a large disc prolapse, this can lead to the patient experiencing numbness in the saddle area and loss of sensation of bowel and bladder function, including incontinence. See cauda equina compression. This should be regarded as an emergency and immediate medical help should be sought.