Slipped Disc – I Have A Slipped Disc!!

Having back pain and being told you have a slipped disc can be a scary experience. You are handed a scan that looks like this, and then told you need to see a specialist and possibly surgery. But what does it all mean?

Let’s break this down further.

What are discs?

The term “disc” is short for “intervertebral disc”. They are spongy cushions that sit between the bones of the spine. They act as shock absorbers for all our movements, they help to keep our back stable and they act as pivot points for the bones of our spine to allow movements. There are two parts to the disc – the elastic outer shell (called the annulus) and the inner jelly like substance (called the nucleus pulposus). Discs are very durable and can handle a lot of pressure, bending, carrying load without breaking.

Can disc’s Slip?

Short answer – NO. Discs do not and cannot slip, they are firmly anchored to your spine. Instead, part of the disc make up bulges out from its resting position – like when the chairs at your dining room table aren’t completely pushed in so we constantly run into them. The term more accurately used is Disc bulge or disc herniation.

The good news is (much like your dining room chairs) they don’t always stay “bulged” and eventually overtime they move back in or go down. Studies have shown that around 66% of lumbar disc herniation spontaneously reabsorbed (Zhong et al 2017).

At times they may not go away, however discs are not always causing pain. Research has found that around 20% of healthy, pain free individuals had a form of spinal cord compression from discs or degenerative changes (Smith, S., 2021).

With some time, patience and some well prescribed exercise you can get rid of that bulge. So don’t let a disc bulge put you off moving or think it will last forever. Come and speak to us at the Hub if you want help pushing those dining room chairs in.


Smith, S. S., Stewart, M. E., Davies, B. M., & Kotter, M. R. N. (2021). The Prevalence of Asymptomatic and Symptomatic Spinal Cord Compression on Magnetic Resonance Imaging: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Global Spine Journal11(4), 597–607.

Zhong, M., Liu, J. T., Jiang, H., Mo, W., Yu, P. F., Li, X. C., & Xue, R. R. (2017). Incidence of Spontaneous Resorption of Lumbar Disc Herniation: A Meta-Analysis. Pain physician20(1), E45–E52.