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Herniated disc - Understand what it is and YES there is a solution!

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

Have you ever had lower back pain that feels like it will never go away? Have you been diagnosed with a herniated disc and that it is stressing you out?

If so, you might be getting pain usually localised on one side of your lower back, it might be referring down to your gluteal area or down your leg.

While the pain can be debilitating and prevent you from doing some of your normal activities, the good news is that the discs can heal like any other structure in your body.

Physiotherapy can offer effective and long term solutions and in most cases it will solve the problem without surgery or other invasive procedures.


The spinal column is made up of a series of bones called vertebrae, and between each pair of vertebrae there is a cushion like structure called intervertebral disc. They act as shock absorbers between the bones, helping your spine move in all directions. These discs consist of a tough outer layer (annulus fibrosus) and a soft jelly-like centre. Looking from the top, the disc looks like an onion cut in half (the rings on the outside and a gel in the middle).

What is a herniated disc?

It is also known as a protruding, prolapsed, or slipped disc. It is a very common condition that can also cause neurological symptoms like pins and needles and numbness on the affected leg.

How does it happen?

A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner core pushes through the outer layers of the disc, which over time it can create micro tears. If the pressure is enough to crack the outer layer of the disc, the jelly-like substance touches the structures outside of the disc, like the nearby spinal nerves, it can cause intense pain and nerve irritation causing pain/ neurological symptoms down the leg.


It can be caused by trauma (such as car accident, falls, sports collision), but most commonly by:

  • Repetitive bending

  • Sitting for long periods

  • Inactive lifestyle

When the pressure is sufficient to breach the outer layer of the structure, the gel-like substance comes into contact with adjacent structures outside the structure, including the nearby spinal nerves. This contact can lead to severe pain and nerve irritation, resulting in pain and neurological symptoms radiating down the leg.

Sitting and bending cause the lower back to go into flexion, increasing the pressure on the jelly-like structure towards the back, where the nerves sit. Over time, the prolonged flexed postures or repetitive bending can lead to microtears on the outer layers. If the pressure is enough to crack the outer layer of the disc, the jelly-like substance comes into contact with adjacent structures outside of the disc, including the nearby spinal nerves. This can cause severe and neurological symptoms radiating down the leg.

Common symptoms of a herniated disc include:

  • One-sided back pain: The pain is typically felt on one side of the back or buttock area and could radiate towards the leg and foot.

  • Back pain and stiffness: this can be worse in the initial hour in the morning. This is because the discs swell when we lie down for an extended period. When we transition to a standing position, gravity exerts its influence, causing the injured disc to be more sensitive.

  • Pain aggravated by lumbar flexion: sitting, bending forward, lifting

  • Muscle weakness, changes in sensation and nerve irritation could also occur.

How can Physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapy plays a role in the diagnosis and finding out the underlying issues causing the disc injury in the first place. With that information after a thorough assessment, we can help you with a long-term pain relief including:

  • Accurate diagnosis: comprehensive assessment to identify the specific causes of your back pain. They will consider factors such as posture, muscle imbalances, joint dysfunction, and nerve irritation to develop a personalised treatment plan.

  • Manual therapy: Hands-on techniques, such as soft tissue massage, dry needling can be used to restore normal function and reduce pain

  • Postural correction and exercises: By correcting postural imbalances, unnecessary stress on the back can be reduced, leading to a decrease in symptoms.

  • Ergonomic advice: such as adjusting your workstation or sleeping posture, to prevent exacerbation of symptoms and support long-term recovery.

  • Education and self-management strategies: provide you with tools to manage your symptoms independently. This empowers you to take an active role in your recovery and prevent future recurrences.

Remember, finding the right treatment plan tailored to your specific needs is essential for long-lasting relief.

Don't let back pain hold you back any longer – take the first step towards a pain-free life by consulting with Cibele today!

Click here to get your free e-book to learn more about back pain self-management.

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