Slipped discs

With Rosie Jones, Osteopath

Beautiful woman holding her back with pain and ache due to injury,wearing a sporty black tank top, isolated.


Most people have heard of something called a “slipped disc” but not many people know what this really means. When patients come in to my clinic they will often ask me if I think they have a disc “out of place” and if so could I please put it back. Sadly, it is not as simple as this! So what really happens when you have a “slipped disc” and what can be done to put it right?

The spine is made up of 24 bones arranged on top of one another. The bones are adapted slightly to the different part of the spine that they are a part of, for example vertebrae in the bottom of the spine (the lumbar region) are bigger than those in the neck in order to bear the weight of the body above. In between each vertebra are your discs. These discs are cushion like structures that help to absorb forces that go through the spine, they are made up of a tough fibrous connective tissue on the outside, and a gel like substance on the inside.

Most of the time your discs do a brilliant job of absorbing forces that travel through the spine and also contribute to the vast amount of movement that your spine is capable of. However, when these structures become overloaded the outer layer of the disc can split and in severe cases the gel like substance inside can protrude. Sometimes the protruding disc can press on a nerve as it leaves the spinal cord and this can result in pain in the limb supplied by the Nerve. As you can see, it is not a case of putting a disc back in to the spine, but don’t worry, lots can be done to help relieve pain and encourage healing of the disc.

How can it be treated?

Thankfully conservative treatment for herniated discs often has good results, although initially, if you are in a lot of pain you may need pain relief tablets from your doctor. Massage and physical therapy have been shown to help with pain relief and a return to movement. In my clinic, I often find that using gentle passive movement of the spine can help to relieve pain and encourage repair, if you are in a lot of pain it can be difficult to keep moving and so gentle passive movement is a nice way to get you started. Often the muscles in the lower back will spasm and be holding themselves very tight, I find that massage of these can often help them to feel more comfortable. Once the back and leg pain has started to ease off I always work in conjunction with movements and exercises in an aim to further encourage repair and also hopefully prevent a reoccurrence of the injury.


Murphy, DR., Hurwitz, EL., McGovern, EE. (2009) A non surgical approach to the management of patients with lumbar radiculopathy secondary to herniated disc: A prospective observational cohort study with follow up. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. Vol 32, 9 pp. 723-733.National Health Service (2014) Slipped disc. [online] available from:

[accessed September 2016].

Swansea Body Kinetics. Clinic at The Natural Health Service, 2 Page Street, Swansea SA1 4EZ

Tel: 07540 453280 Email:




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