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“Slipped Disc” vs “Slipped Vertebrae”

What is a “Slipped Disc?”

Slipped disc is probably a term you have heard from someone you know describing what happened to their back, but what actually is a slipped disc? A slipped disc is more often referred to as bulged, herniated or a prolapsed disc in the medical community.


These slipped or herniated discs most often occur in the lower back or lower neck but can occur anywhere in the spine due to:

  • Trauma
  • Degenerative changes
  • Weaken of the disc material from causes such as:
    • Obesity
    • Weight-bearing sports
    • Heavy lifting
    • Even smoking!

Slipped disc vs slipped vertebrae:

The disc lies between the vertebrae throughout the spine, and as discussed, can slip/herniate/bulge out from between those vertebrae and compress nerve roots. A slipped vertebrae is referred to as spondylolisthesis and is when one vertebrae slips forward/backward and out of place in relation to the vertebrae above or below.

A slipped vertebrae, like slipped discs, most commonly occur in the lower back. Many people have no symptoms from a slipped vertebrae while others may experience back and leg pain, which like slipped discs, can range from mild to severe depending on the anatomical presentation and overall health of the patient. Slipped vertebrae can be congenital or acquired due to the degenerative changes to the spine, trauma or repetitive wear and tear from mechanical overloading. Chiropractic treatment for slipped vertebrae/spondylolisthesis include bracing, chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy for muscular imbalances caused by the different stressors to the spine, exercise rehabilitation as well as different physiotherapy modalities to reduce pain and inflammation.

Resulting Pain

The resulting pain from a slipped disc typically starts on one side of the body and progresses over time. Besides pain, slipped disc symptoms include numbness, tingling, and weakness in the back, leg or arm depending on the location of the disc herniation.


As noted in the image above, symptoms of a slipped disc include:

  • Insomnia – due to pain
  • Weight Loss – as a result of a loss of appetite due to chronic pain
  • Fever – caused by infection, abscesses, discitis
  • Changes in character – due to a sharp, burning, dull ache, and piercing pain
  • Pain radiating out to arms, hands, legs, feet, and buttocks
  • Pain is provoked by standing, bending, twisting, coughing, and other fast actions
  • Pain is worst at night


Chiropractic treatment for slipped discs can include spinal decompression, massage therapy, laser and exercise rehabilitation, while other options for treatment may include physical therapy, medication for pain control and inflammation or possibly surgery in severe cases.


  1. https://www.vanderbilthealth.com/spinecenter/45882
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/herniated-disk/home/ovc-20271246
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