Herniated Intervertebral Disc

The spinal cord is protected by 33 vertebrae bones separated by intervertebral discs which act as shock absorbers to cushion any impact the spine gets during physical activities, sports, walking or jogging.  These discs are round with a tough, outer layer (called the annulus) which surrounds the nucleus (which is spongy).

A herniated disc (also called a slipped disc) occurs when a portion of the spongy disc nucleus is pushed out of the annulus through a tear or rupture in the annulus.  Herniated discs can occur in any part of the spine and the symptoms of pain depends on which part of the spine is affected.

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If the herniation is small, there will be some discomfort and/or pain but will not compress on the spinal nerve or spinal cord.  However, if the herniation is large, the disc will press on the spinal nerves or spinal cord causing symptoms such as numbness, weakness or shooting pain (known as sciatica) down 1 or both legs.  If the disc herniation occurs higher up in the cervical spine region, these symptoms will be felt in the arms and hands. 


A herniated disc is usually caused by repetitive strain to the back, lifting excessive weights or twisting injury.  It may also be due to age-related disc degeneration caused by normal wear and tear especially in people who are overweight, have sedentary lifestyle or driving a lot.

Click to view ShimSpine video on Disc Herniation

Treatment Options

1. Conservative Treatment.  Fortunately most herniated discs are mild in nature and can be resolve with conservative treatment over a 2-3 months period;

  • Bed rest as well as restricting physical activities for several weeks to allow healing
  • Pain and anti-inflammatory medication
  • Muscle relaxant medication
  • Steroid injections into the spine
  • Guided physiotherapy (which includes massage, ice or heat therapy, traction, stretching exercises, ultrasound or electrical muscle stimulation therapy)

2. Back Surgery may be necessary if the symptoms do NOT respond to conservative treatment or progresses to;

  • Neurological deficit such as muscle weakness and/or numbness
  • Loss of bladder or bowel function
  • Severe pain which is NOT relieved with pain medication
  • Difficulty standing or weight bearing

Discuss the treatment options with your Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, Orthopaedic or Spine Surgeon

Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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