How Can Physiotherapy Help a Herniated Disc?

7 Apr, 2021

A herniated disc is spinal inflammation caused by trauma or strain on the spinal column. It is also commonly called a slipped disc or prolapsed disc. Typical patients who experience herniated discs can be aged from 30 to 50 years of age, with men twice as likely to experience it than women.

Physio for slipped disc

Herniated discs occur to the intervertebral disc – the doughnut-shaped disc positioned between the spinal levels (between the spinal discs). The outer part of this doughnut-shaped cushion is called the annulus fibrosus. It shells a jelly-like substance called nucleus pulposus. A herniated disk occurs when an intervertebral disc leaks the internal substance outside of its normal position*. While it can happen anywhere along the spine, it often occurs in the lower back or lumbar spine.

When there’s a herniation or bulge, people usually experience muscle spasms and sharp pains in the spinal region which may affect their mobility and range of movement. There are two approaches to treatment: surgical treatment or less invasive physiotherapy treatments.

In this article, you’ll read briefly about both options. If you’re in pain, look for professional help.

Bulging vs. Herniated Disc

The following conditions are not to be confused. A bulging disc is a deflated intervertebral disc. A herniated disc has a hole on it, through which the nucleus pulposus leaks into the spinal canal.

Bulging discs often affect several vertebrae. A bulging disc is a degenerative process related to age, but there’s a range of treatments for this condition. In some cases, treatment may include anti-inflammatories or steroids. Long-term treatments are encouraged and include a wide variety of physical exercises, prescribed and assisted by a physiotherapist.

Unlike bulging discs, herniated discs don’t usually affect multiple discs and isn’t a degenerative process. Instead, it’s a disc injury that can be caused by accidents or loaded twisting of the spine that results in pain.

Surgical Intervention

In some cases of severe physical limitations or additional neurological symptoms, surgical intervention may be necessary. Some herniated discs may need prompt microdiscectomy to relieve pressure on the spine and mitigate the pain quicker. Many cases are managed through less invasive, conservative treatment with physiotherapy, with most cases resolving over time.

Physiotherapy for herniated disc

Physiotherapy is recommended for the treatment of herniated or bulging discs to assist patients to manage their pain and get them moving again. Often in physical therapy, patients will be introduced to an exercise program designed for each injured region. Mobility and strengthening exercises assist with building strength around the spine, improving core stability and reducing pressure on the vertebral column*.

During the recovery process, through consult with your physiotherapist, some activity limitations may include avoiding lifting heavy weights and rest from vigorous sport or activity. Recommended activities to assist recovery include yoga, walking, swimming and cycling.


Physiotherapy can help all patients experiencing back pain resulting from herniated or building discs. By consulting with a physiotherapist who can tailor your treatment and exercise program to you, patients can make a full recovery from their injury and manage their day-to-day pain easier.

GenPhysio provide mobile physiotherapy services in Brisbane, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. Get in touch today and see how we can help.

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