Slipped Disc

Physiotherapy is highly effective for the treatment of Discs.  A slipped disc relates to excessive movement in the intervertebral disc (IVD) causing the disc to bulge or herniate. 

 The IVD is the soft tissue between the each vertebrae in the spine and are found in the neck, middle and lower back.  The disc is highly versitile allowing the movements of bending and providing shock absorption through the spinal column.  However, because of injury and ageing the discs may become a source or cause of pain.  We refer to a bulging disc as a slipped disc.  However, it does not 'slip' out of place but rather the sides of the disc bulge out and on occasions the matter inside the disc can herniate into the outer area and irritate local nerve endings and nerve trunks (causing conditions like sciatica). Physiotherapy manipulation and mckenzie exercises are specifically desgined to correct disc herniations and pain. 

Would it shock you to know that many of us have ‘slipped discs’ and know nothing of it? Or that performing an MRI scan on about 100 people will likely show that 23-25% of them will probably have abnormal scan! But don’t worry, keep bending, keep lifting, keep running and keep moving! The human vertebral disc is a very neat and highly resiliant bit of kit.  It likes movement, needs movement and copes very well with lifting.

The disc is goes through a process of graceful ageing lasting from birth to death.  It is fluid rich and with ageing and injury there is a continual adaptive process where the discs loose height, become less water rich, increase in stiffness and less able to compress under load.  This does not need to be painful but with such symptoms comes a dislike to movement, a reluctance for movement and an aversion to lifting.  The disc is adaptive, so if we do not move then the disc will become less mobile, muscles become tight, brain learns to move less and we get generally out of condition - this is where injury may occur.



Stiffness after sitting

Tightness with guarding of the muscle

Listing to one side, unable to straighten

  • Very achey and stiff in the morning
  • Dislike of sitting
  • Often better with movement and exercise.
  • Maybe associated with sciatica


We would usually look at the symptoms and assign a treatment plan consistent with the movement fault.  

Treatments that we may use include:

Manual and manipulative therapies (similar to those performes by a chiropractor or osteopath)

A graduated program of activity

Core Stability exercises

General conditioning and strengthening.  

McKenzie exercise regimes


Dry needling


Medication Advice


Other Treatments:

Spinal injections



Discs can take time to heal, but movement is key. More importantly, it is of little benefit to think about the disc as a point of weakness. Much of the pain and symptoms we feel are a function of the muscle system and the apprehension of the brain. This creates anxieties and therefore problems with movement. It is a myth that patients with back pain shouldn’t bend. The back is designed for bending……so bend.


Unsure if physiotherapy can help with your problem? Get in touch and ask the experts!