The easiest way we can imagine a disc is like a jam donut. We have the yeast (annulus) outer part and the jam (nucleus) central part. We are using the analogy of the donut, purely for imagery purposes. Discs are in fact made of tough, robust materials, capable of absorbing huge pressures.
Although we commonly hear the term ‘slipped disc’, no actual slip occurs. Instead we have a bulge of the jam into the yeast (a disc prolapse) or the jam can spill out of the yeast wall (a disc herniation). The outer annulus can become weakened over a long time from excess loading on it. This can be through heavy work, sitting, poor spinal function, poor posture, obesity, poor muscle tone, past injury and poor repetitive habits.
Pain will vary from person to person and is largely based on whether there is interference on any of the pain sensitive structures. Disc injury is most common at the very bottom of the low back and this can give rise to anything from mild irritation to sciatica. In severe cases it can also cause weakness in the leg and loss of control of the bladder and bowel.
Disc injuries may require an MRI scan for accurate diagnosis, but your osteopath will advise you on this and will be able to refer you privately if need be. It is important that any leg symptoms are checked out quickly, as early intervention can often prevent more serious and painful conditions developing. Whilst medication may help with the pain, it does not address the cause.
An osteopath will look to address the cause and will treat, if appropriate, using effective, gentle treatments to ease the pressure on the discs.
If your osteopath feels they are unable to help, they will advise as to the most appropriate course of action for you.