Lumbar Disc Pathology

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As a physiotherapist I treat many patients with back and neck pain every day. I have found that patient education is one of the most important treatment modalities. When you understand the condition, it makes the management so much more effective, which extends far beyond the walls of a physio practice.



Spinal disc herniation is referred to as a “slipped disc” in layman’s terms. This occurs when the intervertebral disc protrudes through the fibrocartilage between two vertebrae, most commonly seen in the low back spine. Medically speaking a disc cannot slip because it is fixed between vertebrae above and below. A disc can only tear or bulge and these are serious conditions which deserves medical attention.

Early detection of disc pathology is of utmost importance as it can directly influence the prognosis. If it is treated within the first 48 hours of onset the recovery period can be shortened by several weeks.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Dull or sharp ache in the back
  • A “catching” pain when standing upright
  • Radiating tingling sensation in the legs
  • Muscle weakness in the extremities
  • Urinary problems

Early management includes bed rest, anti-inflammatory medication and physiotherapy treatment.

  • Possible causes include: 
- Occupation that require frequent sitting
  • Lifting heavy objects by bending in the back and not in the hips
  • Trauma incidents
  • Wear and tear with age

If any of the symptoms mentioned persist for 24-48 hours, you should consult your doctor or physiotherapist without hesitation.