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  • Adam R Whatley Osteopath

Disc Prolapse (Slipped Disc)

Updated: Mar 22


Commonly referred to as a 'slipped' (prolapsed) disc, but please note the disc does NOT actually slip. What happens is that the nucleus bulges (related article) too far out (herniates) through a weakness in the outer part of the disc (annulus).

A prolapsed disc is sometimes called a herniated disc, terms are interchangeable. The prolapsed disc can be extremely painful due to huge amounts of local inflammation and muscle spasms. It can also press on nearby structures such as a nerve coming from the spinal cord. Local inflammation may irritate a nerve also and cause local nerve root swelling.

DISC PROLASPE (SLIPPED DISC) Dynamic osteopaths solihull


As mentioned above on-goin stresses and strains can lead to disc budges and then on to disc prolapsed. Many things may trigger the inner nucleus part of the disc to squeeze out through the weakened outer part of the disc. For example, repetitive bending and twisting, sneezing, awkward bending, or heavy lifting in an awkward position may cause some extra pressure on the disc. In people with a weakness in a disc, this may be sufficient to cause a prolapse. Factors that may increase the risk of developing a prolapsed disc include:

  • Lots of lifting.

  • A job involving lots of sitting (especially driving).

  • Weight-bearing sports (weightlifting, etc).

  • Smoking.

  • Being overweight (obesity).

  • Increasing age (a disc is more likely to develop a weakness as we become older).

  • Poor posture.


  • Back pain

  • Nerve root pain (sciatica)

  • Numbness, pins and needles, or tingling in to legs or arms

  • Pain running down one or both arms or legs

  • Weakness involving one or both arms or legs

  • Pain with sitting, sneezing, bending forward.

Nerve root pain is pain that occurs because a nerve coming from the spinal cord is pressed on (trapped) by a 'slipped' (prolapsed) disc, or is irritated by the inflammation caused by the prolapsed disc.

If the following are experienced, this is a medical emergency.

  • Problems with bowel and bladder function (usually inability to pass urine).

  • Numbness in the saddle area around the back passage (anus).

  • Weakness in one or both legs.


Most disc prolapses will often heal over a period of time with the correct treatment and advice. Conservative treatment is often sufficient for healing of most cases of disc injuries. However, if patient experiences a very bad disc prolapse and severe pain is felt, treatment may be longer established. Surgery is rarely needed and an absolute last resort of exhausting all other methods. Less than 3% of our patients here at Dynamic Osteopaths are referred for spinal surgery for disc tears.

  • The goal of conservative treatment is to provide pain relief, restore functional mobility as soon as possible with the long term goal of working preventaitive of reoccurrence of disc herniation.

  • Disc injuries are relative to neck also.

  • Conservative treatment sometimes includes pain medications or NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen alongside osteopathic treatment and physical therapy. Also, preventative exercise.

Exercises For a Disc Prolapse

It is important to stay 'relatively' active alongside appropriate rest for healing of a disc prolapse. Discs respond to movement. This being said, it is very important to establish the extent of the damage caused initially. Dependant on the extent of the injury, will determine how much you can do to start with.

Only if advised to do so, it is important to do some low impact exercises under the guidance of your osteopath, such as:

  • Gentle walking

  • Lying knee hugs (single)

  • Gentle active mobility exercise, with gradual progression

Disc prolapse treatment Dynamic Osteopaths Solihull

Further specific exercises (below) can be adopted when tolerated

  • Gradual core muscle activation exercises

  • Exercising on an elliptical trainer

  • Patient can also use a recumbent stationary bike for exercising the muscles of the legs


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