Advertorial Dr Fong Shee Yan of ISLAND ORTHOPAEDIC CONSULTANTS explains the warning signs of a slipped disc and what to look out for to enable early detection and treatment.
Your spine is the pillar of support for your body. However, approximately 80 percent of people experience back pain, yet little attention is paid when back problems arise. To understand back pain you first need to understand
your spine. The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae, which are
stacked atop of one another. In between the vertebrae are discs made
up of an outer shell called annulus and the nucleus pulposus – a jellylike
centre which allows the spine to bend and cushions the body’s
weight upon impact.
Once you reach the age of 18 years, your mobile segment doesn’t regenerate or heal itself so the discs in your spine are often the fi rst to wear out as you start aging, resulting in back pain. A slipped disc, also known as a herniated or ruptured disc, occurs when an annular tear in your disc is subjected to continuous pressure, causing it to eventually rupture. When the disc is subjected to repeated compressions, bending and rotations, the shell of the disc or the annulus starts to tear.
This is the first stage of degeneration. If no effort is made to prevent
further damage, the “jelly” inside the disc slowly starts to push
its way out and you’ll experience the fi rst onset of serious back pain.
Once there’s a tear, the water inside the nucleus pulposus leaks, just
like a punctured car tyre, causing your disc to lose its buoyancy and
In the early stages you’ll experience lingering backache, but will still be able to continue with your daily activities. Once your disc ruptures, you’ll experience further pain. If the rupture is within your neck you’ll experience discomfort in your shoulders and arms. Further compression of the spinal cord could lead to permanent paralysis.
A clinical examination and an MRI scan are necessary to determine the severity of your condition. If your injury is in the early stages, medication
will be suffi cient to reduce the infl ammation and ease the pain.
Targeted physiotherapy treatment may be recommended, depending
on the severity of your injury.
Contrary to popular belief, surgery is not always the answer for slipped disc. A microdiscectomy, which involves removing the affected disc, is only performed in serious cases where the ruptured disc is pinching or irritating your spinal nerve root or spinal cord. If done correctly, the success rate is above 90 percent.
When your spine is injured and its function impaired the consequences
can be painful and even disabling. Detection and medical intervention
at an early stage can prevent serious damage and offer you
a future free of back problems.
Dr Fong Shee Yan
Orthopaedic Surgeon (Spine)
Island Orthopaedic Consultants provides comprehensive general
and sub-specialised orthopaedics and trauma services.
Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
3 Mount Elizabeth Road, #06-03
Gleneagles Medical Centre
6 Napier Road, #02-16
Mount Alvernia Medical Centre A
820 Thomson Road, #01-04
Tel: 6631 9268
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