Herniated Disc: Definition and What it is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT

Herniated Disc Definition and Meaning

A herniated disc occurs when the center of one (or more) of the flat, round discs — that are located between vertebrae in the spine and act as shock absorbers enabling the spine to be flexible — pushes against its outer ring. This can sometimes cause back pain or neck pain.

Herniated Disc Symptoms

Some people with a herniated disc don’t have any symptoms or pain. In fact, research shows that 30% of 20-year-olds and 84% of 80-year-olds with no back pain show signs of a disc bulge on an MRI. 

For others, a herniated disc may be accompanied by a variety of symptoms that can vary depending on where the herniated disc is located in the spine and whether the disc is pressing on a nerve. Symptoms may include tingling, numbness (most commonly on one side of the body), muscle weakness, or back pain that extends to the arms or legs or worsens at night or with certain movements, like standing, sitting, or walking. 

Herniated Disc: A Hinge Health Perspective

You may have a herniated disc diagnosis, or you might have back pain that feels like a herniated disc. That label may make you feel stuck, like your pain is something you just have to live with. If there’s one thing we want you to know about your herniated disc, it’s this: You’re not stuck with your pain and there are always steps you can take to get back to doing what you love. 

You may not be able to control every issue involved in your back pain, but you do have the power to change some important things. You can always take action to improve your situation — and that often starts with moving more. As our Hinge Health care team says, movement is medicine. Movement encourages blood and oxygen delivery to tissues for healing, keeps muscles strong and limber, and helps reduce pain. In other words, don’t talk yourself out of exercise — it’s exactly what you need to fight the pain and prevent it in the future.

Herniated Disc Pain Treatment

Most of the time, a herniated disc gets better on its own after several days or weeks. But depending on the severity of your symptoms, treatments can range from over-the-counter and prescription medication and physical therapy to steroid injections and surgery. Lifestyle modifications, like focusing on gentle movements and exercises (including walking), can also help you find your movement sweet spot and teach your body and mind that it’s safe to be active.

How Physical Therapy Can Help With a Herniated Disc

Physical therapy can aid in easing pain that may be related to a herniated disc or back pain, especially if you prefer to exercise with some support. A physical therapist (PT) can create a personalized treatment plan that includes exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, improve flexibility and posture, and reduce the pressure on the herniated disc. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


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  2. Herniated Disc—Symptoms, Causes, Prevention and Treatment. (n.d.). American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Retrieved from https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Herniated-Disc 

  3. Park, D. K. Herniated Disk in the Lower Back. (January, 2022). American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/herniated-disk-in-the-lower-back/ 

  4. Dydyk, A.M., Ngnitewe Massa, R., & Mesfin, F.B. (2023) Disc Herniation. StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441822/ 

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