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What is a slipped disc?

A ‘slipped disc’ is a term often used for a type of back pain. The actual medical term is a herniated disc and this occurs when a disc in the upper back compresses a nerve causing pain. The vertebrae in the spine have discs of tissue that sit between them. Nerves run down the spine in close proximity to the discs so when a disc becomes damaged it compresses on the nerves, causing pain. The upper back is the least common location of a slipped disc.

Mobilisations of the mid thoracic spine by experienced physiotherapistAbove: Mobilisations of the mid thoracic spine by experienced physiotherapist

What causes a slipped disc?

The inside of a disc is soft and is surrounded by a tough exterior. A ‘slipped disc’ is when the tough exterior is damaged and the soft tissue protrudes through the damage. It is this protrusion that compresses the nerve and causes pain. The damage to the lining can be caused by:
  • Wear and tear
  • Repetitive flexing (bending) of the upper back
  • Trauma, such as lifting a heavy load with a bent back

What are the symptoms of a slipped disc?

A ‘slipped disc’ compresses the nerves in the upper spine. Symptoms may be felt across the upper back. Symptoms can include:
  • Pain, especially when flexing (bending) the spine
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pins and needles
  • Pain inhibited movement
  • Numbness

Soft tissue massage of the upper thoracic spineAbove: Soft tissue massage of the upper thoracic spine

Physiotherapy for a slipped disc

Physiotherapy is very beneficial for a ‘slipped disc’ and can relieve symptoms. At our physiotherapists will assess and treat you as an individual. Treatment may include
  • Heat therapy
  • Electrotherapy
  • Mobilisations
  • Range of movement exercises
  • Postural advice and exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Stretching exercises

Can a slipped disc cause any long-term effects?

Physiotherapy generally provides a successful outcome for most patients. However injections or surgery would be considered for patients that are still suffering pain even after physiotherapy intervention.

Trigger point massage of the upper back musclesAbove: Trigger point massage of the upper back muscles

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