25 February 2019

What is a Slipped Disc?

The intervertebral discs are made up of a tough outer shell (Annulus Fibrosus) and a soft-jelly like substance (Nucleus Pulposus) contained within it. These discs separate the bones of the spine (the vertebrae) and act as shock absorbers, protecting the bones from things like lifting, twisting and impact.

When the outer shell becomes weak or torn, the inner substance can leak out. This is referred to a slipped or herniated disc. Sometimes the outer shell doesn’t tear but the inner substance causes it to protrude. This is referred to as a bulging or prolapsed disc.


  • Pain and numbness, usually on one side of the body
  • Pain which extends to your arms and legs
  • Pain when you cough or sneeze
  • Pain which gets worse at night or when moving in a certain way
  • Pain which gets worse after sitting or standing for a period of time
  • Pain which has developed quickly

Causes/Contributing Factors


As we age, discs can degenerate through wear and tear. This leaves them more vulnerable to tears and injury.


Smoking decreases blood flow to the discs. This leads to less-healthy discs and degeneration.


Discs can slip out of place if you lift with poor technique, move suddenly or twist and lift at the same time. Jobs requiring a lot of lifting put additional strain on the discs over time and can contribute to the risk of a slipped disc.


If you have an underlying weakness in your core or back muscles, there is less support for your spine which means it’s more vulnerable to injury as it’s less protected.


Painkillers and inflammatory medication can help with pain relief and reduce any swelling. In the first 48-72 hours, you can also ice the area to help with inflammation. Following 72 hours, heat treatments such as a warm bath or hot water bottle can help ease the pain and promote relaxation of your muscles.

It’s also important to work on your posture, maintaining the natural ‘s’ shape of your spine and avoiding slouching.

Exercises to strengthen the back and core muscles will also help. By working on the supporting muscles, your spine and discs will be under less pressure. Massage may also help by easing tension in the muscles.

To speak to a specialist therapist about the prevention and treatment of slipped discs, claim your complimentary ‘reduce back pain’ consultation, where you can discuss your back pain and receive advice on safe treatment for a slipped disc to avoid pain long-term.

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