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Common Conditions

Herniated Disc (Slipped Disc)


A Herniated Disc is a condition that can occur anywhere along the spine, but most often occurs in the lower back. Also known as a Slipped Disc or Ruptured Disc, a herniated disc occurs when the outer layer tears or ruptures and the gel-like center leaks into the spinal canal. The spinal canal has just enough space to house the spinal cord and spinal fluid. When a disc herniates and spills into the spinal canal, it can cause compression of the nerves or spinal cord. In addition, the gel-like substance inside the disc releases chemical irritants that contribute to nerve inflammation and pain.

Disc Herniation is most often the result of a gradual, aging-related wear and tear called disc degeneration. As you age, your discs become less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with even a minor strain or twist. Sometimes, using your back muscles instead of your leg and thigh muscles to lift heavy objects can lead to a herniated disc, as can twisting and turning while lifting.

Factors that can increase the risk of a Herniated Disc may include:
– Weight. Excess body weight causes extra stress on the discs in your lower back.
– Occupation. People with physically demanding jobs have a greater risk of back problems. Repetitive lifting, pulling, pushing, bending sideways and twisting also can increase your risk of a herniated disc.
– Genetics. Some people inherit a predisposition to developing a herniated disc.

Most Herniated Discs occur in the lower back, although they can also occur in the neck. This usually affect one side of the body. Symptoms of Herniated Disc may include:
– Arm or leg pain. This pain might shoot into your arm or leg when you cough, sneeze or move into certain positions. Pain is often described as sharp or burning.
– Numbness or tingling. People who have a herniated disc often have radiating numbness or tingling in the body part served by the affected nerves.
– Weakness. Muscles served by the affected nerves tend to weaken. This can cause you to stumble, affect your ability to lift or hold items.

Physical therapy often plays a major role in Herniated Disc recovery. Treatment program will usually begin with passive treatments. In the passive stage, treatment will include manual therapy to relieve deep muscle tension and spasms, heat therapy and ice therapy. Traction may also be done to reduce the effects of gravity on the spine. As treatment progresses, a personalised exercise program which focuses on muscle strengthening, core stability and flexibility will be prescribed by your therapist. You will also be taught ways to condition your back to help prevent future pain. If in doubt, seek professional advice.