The discs in the spine are shock absorbing structures found between adjacent vertebrae. They
form part of the spine’s function to keep the body upright while providing movement, and their
ability as shock absorbers decrease forces traveling up in the body from the legs. Discs are
located between all vertebrae from the neck (cervical) to the lower back (lumbar). Disc injuries
most commonly occur in either the neck or lower back, and rarely in the mid back (thoracic
spine). Discs can be injured in various ways, such as during a traumatic event or with overuse of
the spine (bending, twisting or carrying objects). It is commonly seen in people with desc jobs as
well, mostly due to poor posture and incorrect ergonomic setup. Disc herniations are seen in up
to 2% of the population and are more common in men. Disc desiccation is another disorder of
the discs, and is seen in older adults due to degenerative effects of aging. It might be necessary
to have a scan, such as X-rays or an MRI done for diagnosis of disc pathologies.
Symptoms of disc injuries:
● Pain in the area of the back where the disc is injured (for example neck or lower back)
● Stiffness in the spine and decreased movement due to pain limitations
● Cervical (neck) disc injuries will result in symptoms experienced in the arms or hands as
well, such as pins and needles or tingling, weakness, pain, changes in skin sensation.
● Lumbar (low back) disc injuries result in similar symptoms but in the legs. This can
include trouble with walking or standing up from a seated position.
● Symptoms are often worse in the mornings (this is due to disc volume increasing while
● In severe cases, people can experience a complete loss of power in limbs
Types of disc herniation:
1. Bulging: The disc extends beyond the margins of the two adjacent vertebral bodies
2. Protrusion: The inside of the disc (nucleus pulposus) bulges more and impinges onto the
outside rim (annulus fibrosus).
3. Extrusion: The nucleus pulposus bulge extends through the annulus fibrosus.
4. Sequestration: The disc bulge breaks away and extends into the epidural space of the
Disc pathologies usually respond well to physiotherapy. Physiotherapy treatment can help you
to return to your previous level of function in most cases and will equip you with techniques of
pain management and self-help modalities. Response to physiotherapy depends on many
factors and not only on the extent of the injury. In severe cases, your physiotherapist might refer
you to discuss surgical options with a specialist, but will work with you to find the best suitable
treatment for you. Exercise prescription, stretching and mobility, dry needling, deep tissue work
and movement relearning are some of the techniques that might form part of your treatment