Disc herniation

The spinal column is made up of vertebrae which have intervertebral discs in between them. They are natural ‘shock absorbers’ and are filled with a jelly-like substance. They have a stabilising effect and help us move around freely.

Intervertebral discs are flat round capsules. Their exterior part is made up of fibrous membrane (annulus fibrosus), which surrounds a jelly-like substance inside the disc. (nucleus pulposus).

As people get older, the intervertebral discs which take on the body’s weight start to dry out and the fibrous membrane starts to lose its elasticity.

This may lead to them being torn and the jellylike center (nucleus) inside the disc may start spilling out. This is known as disc herniation.

Stages of disc herniation:

Disc degeneration

This is the initial phase of disc herniation. It’s typified by protrusion of the fibrous ring, although the inside remains intact.

Disc protrusion

This phase is characterised by the partial tearing of the fibrous ring and egress of part of the nucleus pulposos from the disc.


Usually, the fibrous ring is fully torn and a large part of the nucleus pulposos is found outside the spinal canal disc and the spinal cord may be compressed.


Part of the nucleus pulposos is torn off and there’s no connection with the intervertebral disc.

When the fibrous ring gets torn, the nucleus pulposos may compress some of the spinal cord nerves. Disc herniation may be seen in any segment of the spinal column, but the most commonly affected is the lumbar region (L4-L5), followed by the cervical and in last place the thoracic segments. Disc herniation may affect several levels at the same time.

Usually, symptoms of disc herniation include the following:

  • Sharp pain in the area affected
  • Pain, tingling or reduced sensitivity in the arms and legs
  • Muscle spasms
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Hypotrophy of some muscles
  • Urinary, bowel or sexual dysfunction in lumbar disc herniation
  • Dizziness and nausea in cervical disc herniation

Causes of disc herniation:

  • Age-related degenerative changes
  • Lifting heavy weights
  • Spinal column trauma
  • Bad posture
  • Congenital anomaly in the spinal column
  • Hereditary factors

When the herniation is too large and affects the genital or digestive systems or damages the innervation of limbs, an operation is recommended.

In all other cases, it’s a good idea to follow a course of physiotherapy and kinesitherapy as well as take medication prescribe by a neurologist. Treatment of disc herniation refers mainly to treatment of the symptoms.

At Okto, we have high-quality equipment and qualified staff to help you to deal with the pain, inflammation and getting back to your everyday life.

We aim to advise our patients how to get rid of bad habits which make your condition temporarily worse and which exercises would help relieve the symptoms.