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How Does Physical Therapy Help a Herniated Disc?

Physical Therapy for a Herniated DiscDealing with back pain is not an unusual problem. Many people suffer from pain and soreness in this area at some point. You may not worry much if the pain is occasional or minor. However, when it is persistent and intensifies, you need to get relief right away. A frequent type of back ailment is a herniated disc, which can be twice as likely in men than women. It can bring extreme pain and hinder your mobility and range of motion. You may have difficulties completing basic tasks and enjoying regular activities. To treat a herniated disc, health care professionals can offer a variety of methods. Often, physical therapy is an effective measure.

Understanding the Condition

In between the vertebrae in your back are rubbery cushions called discs. These act as a sort of shock absorber and hold the spine together. Discs also promote effective mobility and range of motion. A herniated disc, also known as slipped disc, occurs when the center of the disc pushes out through the tough exterior. This results in discomfort and often excruciating pain and can happen at any point along the spine. Frequently the condition impacts nerves in the area. Herniated discs can affect people of all ages, though people ages 35 to 55 are more likely to suffer these effects. Excess weight, wear and tear, twisting, turning, heavy lifting can cause a herniated disc. Traumatic injuries resulting from auto and work-related accidents are a common cause of this painful condition.

The Symptoms

Some common signs would tell you that you may have a herniated disc. Although back pain may seem like a prominent symptom, the discomfort can also be present in the legs and buttocks. Pain can radiate down the back into these areas as well as into the feet. If you have a herniated disc, you may feel numbness or tingling in your legs or feet. You could also experience muscle weakness and struggle to walk. These sensations can also affect your flexibility. Pain near the shoulder blades and neck spasms are also common effects of the condition.

Choosing Physical Therapy

There are various ways to treat a herniated disc. A doctor may prescribe medication to combat the pain and help you have a better range of motion. In severe cases, a doctor may also recommend getting surgery. However, for non-invasive, drug-free solutions, physical therapy is a good option. A doctor or chiropractor may recommend physical therapy for a herniated disc. It is usually an ongoing activity rather than a few visits to a therapist. How long it lasts and how often you would go depends on the severity of your symptoms.


Going through a series of targeted stretches is often an effective way to relieve the effects of a herniated disc. A therapist will teach you the proper ways to stretch your back. These techniques can improve your flexibility and prepare you for additional treatments you may undergo. A nice aspect of stretching is that you can do these exercises at home as directed by the therapist or as needed for pain relief.

Building Muscle

The muscles in your back and neck have a direct effect on the skeletal system of these areas. Physical therapy for a herniated disc may include strength training and increasing your muscle mass. As you develop more muscle strength, you are better able to withstand pain. Strong muscles also provide good support for the back.

Core Strength

Related to this is the importance of building your core. Strengthening abdominal muscles is an excellent way to support the vertebrae and relieve the discomfort from a herniated disc. A physical therapist will lead you in exercises and activities to improve your abdominal strength. The therapist may assess how weakness in this area is putting strain on your back, increasing the pain already present because of the herniated disc.

Hot Water

A physical therapist may even recommend hydrotherapy. This tactic can soothe the back pain you are feeling. Sitting in a hot tub can also relax the muscles in the back. The therapist may include aerobic exercises in hot water.

Not every intervention for back pain has to be invasive or involve medication. If these ailments hinder your quality of life, consider doing some of these exercises or visiting a physical therapist to treat a herniated disc and find the relief you need.