What is a Herniated Disc?
A disc herniation, also referred to as disc bulge or disc protrusion, is found on imaging in people with and without lower back pain (LBP). It refers to the migration of the central ‘jelly-like’ fluid from the centre of the disc, to the extremity. The disc herniation may then compress exiting nerves at each spinal level and result in burning and radiating pain, weakness, tingling and numbness. These symptoms can be felt anywhere from the lower back, buttock, thigh, lower leg, and even into the toes. The likelihood of a disc herniation on imaging increases with age and is often present in people without any current or past history of lower back pain.
Is a Herniated Disc serious?
The good news it that most disc herniations are not serious and can often be reduced through targeted exercise, activity modification, education and postural advice from your physiotherapist.
In extreme cases, a disc herniation may not improve with physical therapy and surgery may be indicated to repair the disc by shaving off a small portion.
What Causes Disc Herniation?
Disc herniations are most commonly caused by a sudden change (usually increase) in unaccustomed mechanical load often accompanied by poor sitting, lifting and bending postures. Usually, disc herniations occur gradually over time before a trivial movement, such as tying up a shoelace, can be the catalyst for pain.
What Happens if a Herniated Disc Goes Untreated?
Even without any intervention, a disc herniation can improve by reducing aggravating activities. It is important to remember that in some cases the disc herniation may not reduce or heal completely, but the patient may no longer show any signs or symptoms.
How Do You Cure a Herniated Disc?
A disc can be cured, healed or reduced through a variety of different ways. Firstly, it is important for your physiotherapist to assess your individual pain drivers (poor sitting posture, recent return to heavy squats at gym) and modify, reduce or avoid them for the short-term, as necessary. Secondly, a targeted physiotherapy designed exercised program aimed to increase mobility and/or strength will help cure your herniated disc.
Can a Herniated Disc Heal With Physiotherapy?
Yes. By completing a comprehensive rehabilitation program focused on physical activity and movement, the ‘jelly-like’ substance can often move in the opposite direction, reducing compression of nerves and the mechanical stimulation of pain receptors, thereby alleviating any lower back symptoms.
A commonly prescribed exercise includes the ‘McKenzie Extension’ pictured below.
Can Exercise help a Herniated Disc?
Commonly, many Lower Back Pain cases involving disc herniations can be avoided and prevented through regular physical activity, core strengthening, postural advice and load management. It is important to consistently provide controlled forces to your spine through a variety of different movements, exercises and postures every day. When needing to face an unaccustomed force or load, keeping a straight back and activating your core, can help prevent injury.
Is it ok to run with a Herniated Disc?
It is important to have an assessment before undertaking physically demanding exercise such as running or weight training. If there is too much impact or associated neurological symptoms, running can make your pain worse. If you only have intermittent pain, with no neurological symptoms, running can be advantageous. Trying to run on our Alter-G treadmill at 60% of your bodyweight, before commencing overground running, is recommended.
Can a Herniated Disc Heal Completely?
Whether a herniated disc completely heals or not is largely irrelevant. Remember, a disc herniation is a common finding on imaging on people without any current or past history of Lower Back Pain. Completing a physio-led rehabilitation plan involving exercise, activity modification and postural advice, is your best bet.
Lower Back Pain and disc herniations are extremely common. It is normal to have an LBP episode during your lifetime (67% incidence). Most importantly, a disc herniation is a common finding on imaging on people without any current or past history of Lower Back Pain. Therefore, it is important that your physiotherapist obtains a detailed history and conducts a thorough clinical assessment to correctly diagnose and rehabilitate your lower back ailment.
Make a booking now with one of our expert physiotherapists for the most up-to-date, evidence-based approach for management of your lower back!