herniated / slipped disc

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what is slipped (herniated) disc?

Content is medically reviewed by:

Shruti Bangera, Masters In Neurological Physiotherapy, Senior Physiotherapist & SME, Portea

The vertebral column that protects our spinal cord is made of 33 vertebral bones. The top 24 vertebrae are separated from each other by 23 intervertebral discs. These discs cushion the vertebral bones and act as shock absorbers. They are also the ligaments that hold the spinal vertebrae together. The intervertebral discs are joints made of cartilage that allow a slight amount of mobility in the spine.

slipped (herniated) disc meaning

The intervertebral disc has two parts – a soft, gel-like inner potion called nucleus pulposus and a hard outer ring called annulus fibrosus. Weakness, old age and injury can cause the gel from the inner portion to leak through the hard outer ring. This is called a slipped disc or herniated disc. This can cause discomfort and severe pain. A herniated disc can put pressure on one of the spinal nerves, causing immense pain, tingling or numbness along that nerve.

slipped disc symptoms

A slipped disc can cause debilitating pain in the affected area. Slipped disc symptoms include:

  • Pain that increases with specific movements
  • Numbness and pain on one side of the body
  • Burning sensations and tingling or pins-and-needles sensation in the limbs
  • Radiating pain extending to the legs or arms
  • Muscular weakness and numbness in the legs or buttocks.
  • Pain that intensifies after sitting, standing or walking short distances.

types of slipped disc

The slipped disc meaning can vary depending on whether it is a herniated disc or a bulging disc. A herniated disc also called ruptured disc or prolapsed disc is when the disc has torn open due pressure from the vertebrae surrounding it, and the gel inside is leaking out. Herniated disc symptoms include pain and numbness in the back, arms, legs or buttocks depending on the location of the herniated disc. A bulging disc or disc protrusion is when the disc shifts out of its usual position, swells and protrudes through a gap in the spine.

Apart from this, slipped discs can be classified based on their location on the vertebral column, such as cervical, lumbar or thoracic.

causes of slipped disc or herniated disc

Old age is a major cause of slipped disc in the back. The discs which contain 80% water at birth lose their water due to ageing and become stiffer. This makes the discs less adjustable to compression, causing herniated disc symptoms. Other causes of a slipped disc in the back are obesity, sedentary life, lack of exercise, injury, trauma, accidents, improper movements, and smoking. Lifting extremely heavy weights improperly can also cause slipped disc in the lower back.

diagnosis of slipped disc

To diagnose a slipped disc or herniated disc, the doctor will do a physical exam and check for the source of the pain, muscle strength and nerve function in the affected area. The doctor will also ask you when you first experienced herniated-disc symptoms and what physical activities aggravate your pain. The doctor will then ask you to get imaging scans such as X-ray, MRI, CT scan or discograms done to view the vertebral column and identify the problem area.

slipped disc treatment

There are various options for treatment of a herniated disc or slipped disc. Some of these are:

  • Anti-inflammatory Medicines: These are over-the-counter or prescription medicines that can ease pain and swelling, such as painkillers, muscle relaxants, and nerve pain tablets.
  • Injection: Steroid injections or anti-inflammatory and pain-relief injections can be injected directly into the affected nerves, giving immediate relief.
  • Lifestyle Alterations: Slipped disc in the lower back is common in people who are obese or have a sedentary lifestyle. Exercising regularly, maintaining healthy body weight, drinking plenty of water, avoiding smoking, and being active can minimise the chances of getting a herniated disc.
  • PhysiotherapyPhysiotherapy exercises can minimise pain and give relief to people affected by a herniated disc. However, these herniated disc exercises should be done under the supervision and guidance of trained physiotherapists.
  • Surgery: There are minimally invasive surgeries such as discectomy where the herniated part of the disc is removed and laminectomy where the damaged portion of the disc and the portion of bone pinching the nerve are removed.

when do you need us?

Surgery is usually a last resort treatment option for herniated discs. Physiotherapy has been found to minimise pain and improve mobility in people with slipped disc. Herniated disc treatment at home can be done by our trained physiotherapists who are expertly trained and have the requisite skills to treat the symptoms and help with
herniated disc recovery. Our physiotherapists can evaluate and develop an ideal plan that is suited to your specific requirements. They are experts in exercise therapy and kinesiology. Hence, they can help patients manage pain and restore physical mobility and function.

These slipped disc exercises can be done right in the comfort of your home with the help of our trained specialists. Herniated disc treatment at home is especially convenient for people who are in immense pain and cannot travel far for slipped disc therapy.

how we can assist

Our physical therapy experts can assist you with your slipped disc treatment at home by guiding you in doing specific low impact slipped disc exercises. Our in-home doctor and physiotherapy services can help in diagnosis your condition and suggesting a plan for herniated disc treatment at home. The herniated disc symptoms can be treated with low impact exercises that increase blood flow and help strengthen the muscles around the spine, thus restoring mobility and decreasing pain. Slipped disc therapy can help relieve pressure from the vertebral bones and nerves and lessen the pain. herniated disc exercises if done incorrectly can cause serious complications which is why you need the guidance of our physiotherapists.


Slipped disc recovery can take time and patience. You may need to make some lifestyle changes and adjustments to manage the pain. Herniated disc symptoms can be treated with physiotherapy both pre and post-surgery by our expert doctors and physiotherapists who provide herniated disc treatment at home at your convenience. With proper treatment, you can go on to live a relatively active life even after slipped disc recovery.

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