Herniated Disc – Should I be afraid?

A common cause of back pain and sciatica is herniated disc. When our patients first hear that diagnosis, many of them are afraid, because they may know someone who had surgery or might have had a poor outcome. MRIs, CTs, and even drawings of herniated discs can be really frightening!

herniated disc


In fact, most people with a diagnosis of herniated disc do very well with conservative care. We use manual therapy, and teach you proper positioning and exercise to counteract the stressful forces that your work, hobbies and habits place on your back.

A 2016 study in the New England Journal of Medicine* followed a 29-year-old female with herniated disc and nerve compression causing right leg pain and numbness. Five months after epidural injection and physical therapy, an MRI showed that the herniation had disappeared.

Here’s another fun fact: Depending on age, up to 80% of people with NO SYMPTOMS have evidence of disc problems on MRI or CT scan**. This means that, even if you have a herniated disc, it might not be related to your pain. You might just need good, old-fashioned, back rehabilitation. It’s amazing what a handful of targeted exercises can do! Our therapists perform a very specific evaluation to determine which exercises you need to counteract any stability, weakness or range-of-motion problems.

Fear can be debilitating. Don’t let a diagnosis of herniated disc scare you away from doing the things you love. Try physical therapy!

*NEJM. 2016; 374:1564

**Am J Neuroradiol. 2015; 36(4):811-816