Disc Pathologies

What is it?

A disc pathology is when one of the discs in your back (usually lower back or neck) protrudes out and hits on the nerve causing pain. Depending on which disc is affected and how much it is compressing the nerve will determine where your symptoms are located. In the lower back you can get pain in the lower back, into the hip and down the leg or both. In the neck your symptoms could be in your neck, down your arm, or both.

What does it feel like?

  • Disc pain can be described in many different ways including sharp shooting pain, like an electric shock, burning and usually a general constant ache.
  • Some people experience more local pain in the back or neck where others only feel the pain down the arm or leg eg in their calf, side of the leg or outside of the arm .
  • Painful tasks include bending down to put socks or shoes on, standing up from sitting, getting out of bed, getting in or out of the car, lifting or carrying things, looking up, looking down.
  • You may have noticed tingling, pins and needles or numbness in your calf or foot, or in your fingers or forearm.
  • If you look in the mirror you may see that you are shifted to one side or you are holding your neck shifted to one side.

What causes disc pathologies?

Discs are located in between vertebrae in your spine and act as shock absorbers. If you have an impact injury or fall from a height you can get a split in the disc. When you do repetitive movements in the same direction the nucleus of the disc can slowly come out through the split and eventually hit on the nerves coming from your spine. This causes intense pain along the nerve and the compression of the nerve can cause numbness and weakness to the muscles and area that are normally supplied by that nerve.

How is disc pathology diagnosed?

Your Physiotherapist can diagnose disc pathology from your symptoms but a more specific diagnosis regarding the true extent of your pathology will require a full physical assessment. Further investigations such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may be required if your symptoms are severe and, are not settling with rehabilitation. You should discuss your symptoms thoroughly with your therapist so they can determine if this is necessary.

How can Back in Action Physiotherapy help?

At Back in Action we will talk to you and listen to how your pain is affecting your everyday activities. We will start with a thorough assessment of your movements, joints and nerves to determine the exact cause of your disc injury. Each person is different and so will need treatment to be tailored for their current symptoms and pain. Painkillers and Anti-inflammatories can help to relieve some pain and we recommend you see your local Pharmacist or Doctor regarding the best type for you. Once we have diagnosed your injury we will use a combination of techniques such as mobilisations, massage, stretching, acupuncture, taping, muscle energy techniques, and some basic home exercises to help you get better, faster. We can advise and educate you about your injury and set goals with you to achieve in and out of our sessions. Disc pathologies are common and many do not require surgery so come and see us for an assessment as soon as possible.