Spinal discs act like cushions in between the vertebrae in the spine. They help absorb shock and help spread the load when we lift and carry things. Herniated discs occur most frequently in the lower back. They are usually due to repeated overuse during bending, lifting, and sporting activities that lead to degeneration of the outer layer of the disc, which allows the gel-like centre of the disc to prolapse out. This presses against structures in the back that can cause back pain and even sciatica (pain down back of the leg).
The onset of back pain is often sudden and severe. The back pain from a herniated disc may be relieved by changing position but it can be made worse by bending, lifting and prolonged sitting. Coughing and sneezing can also aggravate the pain. A herniated disc can often produce pain, weakness, tingling or numbness in the thigh, leg or foot which tends to be worse first thing in the morning.
Osteopathy is effective for relieving the symptoms of a herniated disc, although pain relieving medication is also usually necessary. The acute back pain normally lasts for a few days after which regulated activities should be encouraged as much as possible.