Skip to main content

The 4 stages of disc herniation

The 4 stages of disc herniation
4 minutes, 6 seconds

A herniated disc is a spinal condition involving the vertebrae in the back. If someone has a herniated disc, that means that the soft center of one of the discs in between the bones in the vertebrae has slipped out through a small tear in the rubbery outside of the disc. This can occur in any area of the spine but is most often seen occurring in the lower back.

What are the symptoms of disc herniation?

The symptoms of disc herniation are often associated with the weakening or loss of motor skills and reflexes. Many patients suffering from disc herniation will experience some of these motor-related symptoms listed below:

  • Pain in the arms or legs.
  • Tingling or pins and needles in the arms or legs.
  • Numbness in the arms or legs.
  • Weakness in the arms or legs.

It is worth noting that you can have a disc herniation without experiencing any noticeable symptoms. Even if you don’t have any immediate symptoms, you could still be diagnosed with a disc herniation that requires medical attention from an experienced professional. If you think you may have a herniated disc, it’s best to consult with a physician or specialist who can help diagnose your condition. If you do experience any of the symptoms, it’s also a good idea to consult with a specialist concerning your symptoms. These symptoms can be uncomfortable to deal with on a daily basis, and if left untreated, they could potentially worsen.

What are the stages of disc herniation?

  • Disc protrusion — Disc protrusion is the first stage of the herniation process, when the jellylike nucleus first begins to move out of its normal position in the rubbery disc. Commonly referred to as a bulging disc, it can often be the result of a traumatic injury, repetitive movement or natural aging. It can typically improve on its own within a few weeks.
  • Prolapsed disc — During the stage when the disc becomes prolapsed, the nucleus causes the rubbery disc to become misshapen and can often cause it to push against a nerve in the spinal column, causing pain or discomfort.
  • Disc extrusion — During disc extrusions, the jelly in the middle of the disc begins to leak out and is no longer contained within the disc.
  • Sequestered disc — When the disc becomes sequestered, it has reached the most progressive stage of herniation. The jellylike material within the disc has come out of the center of the disc and has gone into another region of the body. The jelly material at this stage of herniation may enter the spinal canal or around the dura mater region.

How can you treat a herniated disc?

There are a few different types of treatment options for those with herniated discs. Some of the most common are the ones listed below:

  • Pain medication — Pain medication can be used for patients with herniated discs. However, this treatment method is mostly for short-term relief and may not be an effective treatment in the long run if the disc needs intervention.
  • Surgical treatment — Oftentimes, people with herniated discs don’t need surgery to treat their condition, but it could be beneficial in some cases. Surgery is most often recommended for those who fail to respond to other methods of treatment first.
  • Seek the services of a physical therapist — Going to physical therapy can be a great option for a patient going through one of the stages of disc herniation. A large portion of patients with this condition respond positively to physical therapy. PT can be effective at reducing the amount of pressure placed on the spinal column, making it easier for the spinal discs to absorb the pressure applied to them. Physical therapists can guide their patients through strategically created exercises and personalized treatment plans to reduce their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

How can you prevent experiencing a herniated disc?

  • Make good lifestyle choices — One key way you can prevent experiencing a herniated disc is to make lifestyle choices that are good for your health. Some of these may include quitting smoking if you’re a smoker or making an effort to get the recommended amount of exercise each day. Carrying around excess weight on your body can place added stress on your spinal discs, which can increase your risk of getting a herniated disc.
  • Maintain good posture — Making sure your posture is as good as it can be can not only strengthen your core and abdominal muscles, but it can also alleviate any unnecessary pressure on your spinal column. If you’re someone who regularly engages in heavy lifting or manual labor, make sure not to place too much strain on your back and to lift heavy weights with proper technique.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for each stage of a herniated disc

At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address the stages of a herniated disc.  Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform.  Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your injury or condition.

Get Help at a Location Near You

Find a Location