Herniated Disc

Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

What is a Herniated Disc?

Herniated disc, also known as ruptured disc or slipped disc, is a common condition involving bulging, cracking, or slipping of the disc – the cushioning pads between the bones (vertebra) that make the spinal column. The discs protect the vertebrae by absorbing the shocks from everyday activities. The disc has a soft, jelly-like core, called the nucleus pulposus. The purpose of this elastic material is to help the disc withstand forces of compression and torsion. When there is pressure on the vertebrae from both sides, and the vertebrae is already damaged, some of the nucleus pulposus may come out through a weakened or torn part of its outer layer called the annulus. When the disc bulges outwards, it can’t perform its usual job as shock absorber for the spine, causing abnormal distribution of the force along the spine.

Herniated disc usually occurs in the neck and lower back where it can cause localized pain which can often be debilitating to patients. With time, the herniated disc can continue to push outwards until it pinches the spinal cord or nearby nerves. When the nerves are involved, you may experience symptoms such as pain, numbness or weakness in the areas of the body where the nerve travels.

What Causes Herniated Disc?

As you age, your discs begin to dry out and become less flexible. As the discs weaken and lose water, they are unable to handle the usual daily forces experienced by the spine. This gradual deterioration is sometimes more accelerated in some individuals than others, but typically occur during your 30s and 40s. If you are a male or have experienced several back injuries, have already had a herniated disc or back surgery, you are at a higher risk of developing this condition. .

There are some other factors that may cause slipped disc:

  • Poor posture
  • Inadequate Exercise – irregular and inadequate exercise puts a strain on the back. If the patient does not exercise regularly, over time he or she loses flexibility and muscle strength.
  • Being overweight – having extra pounds may put additional pressure on the lower back.
  • Smoking – nicotine, and other toxins in cigarettes may keep the discs from absorbing nutrients from the blood. This makes discs prone to injuries and increases the patient’s sensitivity to pain.
  • Improper lifting when heavy weight is added to the spine that is not straight, it may cause the discs to slip or crack. Another thing that contributes to this are weak muscles.
  • Occupations with repetitive movements and twisting
  • Traumatic event (fall, blow to spine)
  • Genetics and family history

What are the Symptoms of Herniated Disc?

The symptoms of herniated disc originate from two different sources. Firstly, there is a set of primary symptoms –  back or neck pain – that originate from the actual bulging of the disc. Secondly, there are symptoms related to irritation of the nerve which can present as pain, weakness or numbness.

  • Back and neck pain

The primary symptom of back or neck pain varies from patient to patient, ranging from mild to severe. The pain can sometimes worsen after coughing, sneezing and even bending forward.

  • Numbness on one side of the body
  • The pain travels to the patient’s’- arms and legs
  • The pain increases at night
  • The pain increases after standing, sitting, during walking or performing certain movements
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling, aching, and burning sensations

On the other hand, some patients may be completely asymptomatic and unaware of their herniated disc. This is why we recommend regular back and neck checks-ups in our clinics. Even if you do not have any symptoms it is important to routinely have your spine checked by a KKT specialist.

  • Irritation of the nerve

If the disc negatively affects the nerves of the lower back, it may lead to a condition known as sciatica. Patients who experience sciatica will feel pain, weakness or numbness in their buttock area,  as well as in the back of the thighs and calves. Its most severe form is known as Cauda Equine Syndrome, and causes  loss of bladder or bowel control. This is a serious condition and if you experience these symptoms you should seek medical care right away.

If the herniated disc is in the neck, there is localized pain in the neck at the level of herniation. Usually there is weakness and numbness through the shoulders, down the arms and possibly to the hands and fingers.

How is Herniated Disc Diagnosed?

If you feel you may be suffering from a herniated disc, it is important to see your local KKT specialist right away for proper evaluation, diagnosis and treatment.

Examination and Assessment

Your doctor will ask you several questions about your back pain to ensure it is typical of herniated disc and rule out other possible causes. The doctor will ask about your medical history and symptoms. During the physical examination, the doctor will check nerve function, muscle strength and whether it hurts during certain movements or while touching the affected area. Afterwards, your doctor will perform a variety of maneuvers to further evaluate the cause of your back pain. For herniated disc, your doctor may perform a straight leg raise (SLR) test. In this test, you will lay down on the examination table and your doctor will lift your leg up. If there is pain in your back, this is one of the signs of herniated disc.

Diagnostic Tests

Your doctor may also order an MRI to get a closer look at your disc. If there is any bulge or herniation, it will show on the MRI. An MRI also helps your doctor determine the severity of your prolapse and rule out other possible causes of your back pain. Since X-rays primarily detect abnormalities related to the bone, they are not useful in diagnosing a herniated disc, and are generally not used for this purpose. However, sometimes doctors may still order an X-ray to rule out other causes of your back pain.

How is Herniated Disc Treated?

  • Medication. Many patients take muscle relaxers and pain medications for temporary relief. Although this is effective in reducing symptoms, they do not address the underlying causes of malalignment and inadequate blood flow to the disc. The disc and your condition may continue to deteriorate and worsen, even if you experience pain relief. It is important that certain pain medications, such as opiates, should only be taken for a short period of time as they can lead to dependence.
  • Exercise program that includes stretching exercises. Physical activity is crucial because you want to avoid stiffness. Muscles weakness is also an issue in herniated discs, so it is recommended to perform strengthening exercises.
  • Surgery. Surgery is reserved for only the most severe cases, such as patients who can’t walk. However, surgery is usually doctors’ last option for treating this condition because of the risks included, such as infection, chronic pain and paralysis. If you are experiencing severe pain and problems, and after six weeks there is not improvement, your surgeon may remove the damage without having to remove the entire disc. This procedure is called microdiscectomy.

The KKT Treatment

The most advanced treatment option for patients with disc herniation is the KKT Treatment. The KKT treatment can stimulate the disc to release molecules which promote disc health and possibly reverse some of the degenerative changes associated with disc herniation. KKT focuses on reversing the root cause of the problem, not simply just masking the pain.

Interestingly, the KKT treatment can also return the spine to its more natural alignment, thereby helping to equally distribute the force on the disc and improve blood flow to the disc. This helps to not only reduce pain but also reverse some of the damage that has been caused. The sooner you start your KKT treatment, the more positive your results will be.

Can Herniated Disc be Prevented?

You might not be able to fully prevent a herniated disc, but there are some things that you can do to lower the risk:

  • Lift from your bent knees, not your waist. Using a safe lifting technique will help avoid your back undergoing unnecessary extra pressure.
  • Maintain a normal weight.
  • Avoid long periods of sitting.
  • Exercise to strengthen your entire body, especially your back, legs, and abdomen.

If you are concerned about any of the signs and symptoms above, a comprehensive diagnostic assessment by a KKT physician will show if you require treatment.  Click here to find your nearest KKT clinic and book an appointment.



I can never say enough about KKT treatments and the medical team at the KKT centre. Three years ago, I suffered from a severe herniated disc in my lower back following a game of competitive squash.

The injury was very painful I visited both my family physician and a pain centre. After weeks of pain medication and physiotherapy, there was minimal improvement.


The temporary relief of pain killers was not a viable solution. My range of movement was restricted and I had to cancel all my work-related travels as I could literally not even sit in a chair! I was referred to the KKT centre by a business associate.


During my initial visit I realized the thoroughness, the patient care and the overall interest from the doctors. This was reassuring and gave me peace of mind. The precision of the x-rays and the analysis of my structure, in addition to the step by step explanation of my medical condition was excellent. KKT’s care program yielded immediate results


Within 4 months I was able to regain my quality of life. I highly recommend KKT treatment for back associated pain. The procedure is painless and the outcome is phenomenal. I wish that in the future people didn’t have to go to so many practitioners before they discover KKT.

-Michael Chow.

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