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Herniated disc, what is it?

December 20, 2021

I’ve been told my back pain is due to a slipped disc, what does that mean?

What is a slipped disc?

The term ‘slipped disc’ can be misleading. The correct term is a ‘herniated disc’. One of your discs, the squishy structures in between your lower vertebra, is not slipped out of place. In reality, a side of it is slightly bulging outwards. This can be totally pain free or excruciating.

Factors that may put you more at risk of getting one are age (degeneration), genetic predispositions, heavy labouring work, trauma and smoking.
They mostly affect men between 30 and 50 years old.

What does a herniated disc feel like?

When painful, a herniated disc can come on suddenly or gradually. It’s most commonly gradual when due to age, and when it occurs suddenly it may be following heavy lifting, twisting or straining. It’s often made worse by bending forward, sitting and straining, coughing or sneezing.

Sometimes, the bulging disc can affect the surrounding nerves and give you pain down your legs, or symptoms such as pain down your legs, pins & needles or weakness.

How will my GP treat a herniated disc ?

Your doctor may prescribe you some pain killers and muscle relaxants, give you a steroid injection and send you for a scan. In some cases, surgery is considered/performed.

When to go to the hospital?

Make sure to seek urgent medical care if you are noticing abnormal sensation in your saddle area and/or have noticed you haven’t been for a wee in an abnormally long time. You should also keep an eye on any sensory symptoms (pins & needles, numbness) and weakness you’re experiencing, to track if they are getting progressively worse.

What to avoid ?

When suffering from a herniated disc, avoid heavy lifting, bending forward and sitting for too long. Make sure to stay active, and use your legs by bending your knees when moving around, picking up things etc.

How long will a herniated disc take to recover?

Disc herniations tend to get better on their own, over a period of 4 to 6 weeks. However, osteopathic treatment can help speed up the process and reduce your pain even after only one session.

What can an osteopath do for my herniated disc ?

Your osteopath will start by asking you questions about your symptoms and your medical history. Then they will perform a series of tests and use palpation to see if it indeed your disc that is causing you trouble. They might also test your nerves (muscle power, skin sensation and reflexes) to establish if those have been impaired.

If they diagnose you with a herniated disc, they will use techniques to try and give the disc more space, improve your spine mobility, ensure your surrounding joints are moving well and the surrounding muscles are relaxed and to bring circulation and therefore nutrients, to the area to encourage maximal healing. They are also likely to give you exercises, to help you get better at home as well.

If you have any questions or want to book an appointment, feel free to contact our team at info@theartofhealing.uk or 0203 146 6755

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