Technically named a ‘Spinal Disk Herneation’, this is where the soft inside of a disk starts to push out due to strain or degeneration, sometimes impinging nearby structures such as nerves. They occur most commonly in the low back (lumbar spine), however, they also occur in the neck (cervical spine) and very rarely in the upper back (thoracic spine).
They often develop over time, the first stage being a small annular tear appearing in the outer disk, commonly seen in people in their 30s. This first stage can cause local back pain but may also be non- symptomatic. If further strain is put on the back a disk bulge then occurs in the next stage of the degeneration. Following this the structure may prolapse, spilling material out of the disk and causing sever irritation. Over a long period this degeneration can lead to arthritis in the spinal vertebrae as they attempt to stabilize the system. Here is a link to an interesting video about how this occurs:
Symptoms often include:

  • Severe low back pain, often coming and going
  • Pain coughing, sneezing or passing solids
  • Sciatica: pain in the buttocks and down the back of the thigh, sometimes into the lower leg
  • Muscle spasm: uncontrolled contraction of a muscle
  • Numbness or tingling in the leg
  • Weakness in the leg
  • Numbness around genitals (seek immediate medical advice)
  • Changes in bowel and bladder function (seek immediate medical advice)

Disk problems require a careful and expert diagnosis by a trained professional. We often see disk problems in clinic and, where appropriate, we treat them gently and effectively by attempting to decrease the inflammation around the disk and nerves, taking the pressure of the painful structures and rebalancing the muscle spasm that often accompany them. Please call to talk to a trained professional if you want to know more.
Ultimately the aim is not just to treat it but prevent the symptoms from reoccurring. This includes education on how to keep the area in question healthy in the future. Please call to talk to a trained professional if you want to know more.