Mumbai: If you are between the ages of 20 and 40, eat fatty foods and lift heavy weights in the gym without expert guidance, your chances of landing up with a slipped disc are high, according to experts

"A slipped disc is an extrusion of the nuclear material or the gel in the disc (pads of cartilage that lie between the spinal vertebrae), because of a tear in the strong, outer fibers," explains Dr Satyen Mehta, consultant spine surgeon with Fortis and Jaslok hospitals.

The lower back (L4 or L5 discs) is the most common area to have a slipped disc, according to Dr Mehta.

 "If, for example, L4 is the damaged disc, then it will compress the L5 nerve, which will lead to severe lower back pain," he says, adding, "Slipped disc patients can experience pain in the buttocks to the entire corresponding leg.

In severe cases it can also cause weakness in the leg, as well as decreased or abnormal sensations in the leg, including the feeling of being on 'pins and needles'."

Pregnant women at higher risk

Orthopaedic surgeon at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, Dr Sanjeev Jain, says that the odds are stacked against pregnant women.

 "One of the reasons for this is the hormonal changes, which results in the hard covering of the disc becoming loose," explains Dr Jain.

The loosening of the outer covering of the disc is exacerbated by the strain that the woman's pregnant belly puts on her back.

"The pressure weakens the covering or ligaments, which could lead to a slipped disc."
"Weight on the stomach or belly causes the spine to be stressed mechanically," says Dr Jain, explaining why obese patients are also at risk of developing the medical condition.

"Those prone to spine curvage and those who lift a lot of big weights are other likely candidates."

While slipped disc problems can affect any age group, those in their 20s and 30s are most susceptible, according to the experts. "That's because the process of degeneration has begun.

Degeneration in older people those in their 60s and 70s as typically progressed to such a level that the amount of disk or nuclear material left is low, and so herniation or the chances of nuclear matter slipping out is reduced," explains Dr Mehta.

Preventive measures? "Leading an active life, doing regular back exercises. Yoga, swimming, walking and running are other excellent preventive measures, because they help keep weight under control."