Sports and Spinal Physio LTD
24 Tallon Road
CM13 1TE

Disc Disorders – Conservative Treatment Options

Disc Disorders – Conservative Treatment Options​​​​

A variety of disc disorders mainly affect the neck and the lower back however they can also lead to arm and leg pain. This occurs when the nerve exiting the spine near the disc injury is either irritated or pinched by the disc bulge or prolapse. There are several options when considering the treatment of a disc injury

(i) Surgery/Injections/Epidural

(ii) Physiotherapy/Osteopathy/Chiropractic

(iii) Do nothing!

As you can see there is not one standard treatment procedure and this is probably because the types of disc injury and possible type and severity of symptoms differ so much.

At Sports and Spinal Physio we do have a system in place that ensures the patient gets the treatment that is right for them. Our first consideration is, does the problem require investigating further? If the answer is yes then we will arrange for the patient to be seen by a specialist who will probably conduct an MRI Scan. This will establish whether or not surgery is required. If the answer is ‘no’ then adopt a four pronged approach.

1. Manipulation/Mobilisation

Research shows that in the early stage (within the first 6 weeks) of a disc injury manipulation is effective at reducing pain and restoring movement. Manipulation is a hands on technique used to get your joints moving. Sometimes you will hear a cracking noise, this is not the disc going back into place it is the movement of gas in/out of the joint and occurs as the joint is stretched or compressed. We can also use more subtle techniques called “mobilisations” to increase joint range of movement and get your spine moving again.

2. Motor Control Exercise drills

Over the past 20 years researchers have shown that our muscles can develop problems secondary to pain, poor posture and faulty movement habits. Sometimes one or more spinal segments (vertebra and disc together) can become more flexible than others. If the muscles surrounding these segments are not working as they should over time strain occurs and subsequently pain develops. This strain often affects the disc and can lead to the various problems discussed in the July 2011 newsletter. At Sports and Spinal Physio we have a series of special tests we use to detect this “uncontrolled movement”. Using these tests we look for the site (location) and the direction (forwards/backwards/rotation) of the excessive flexibility and we correct it using specific exercise drills. These exercises are hard to do and require a fair amount of concentration and for good reason; they are training the brain to muscle connection which in turn improves the muscles ability to protect and control the segments at fault and lessen the strain and pain. Pilates takes a similar more simplified approach to this.

3. Posture/Ergonomics/Habits

As you can imagine, if poor posture or bad movement habits have led to the disc injury then these need to change too. Advice from how to sit and stand, to how to ride your bike or how to amend your golf swing stance is often required. Changes to your work station at home or in work often require the purchase of ergonomic products such as new chairs, document holders and screen raises.

4. General Exercise

Like most medical conditions the back likes movement and exercise – motion is lotion! Research has shown that for longer term spinal complaints general exercise is beneficial. I would always suggest lower impact exercise over high (walking over running) and bear in mind some types of exercise may aggravate your problem for example, cycling may cause a lower back disc to complain and swimming may flare up a disc injury in the neck. Always ask for advice from your Sports and Spinal Physio as to which activity is best for you.

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