What to do in an Acute Disc Injury

Almost everyone has experienced some form of back pain in their lives. In the most severe cases back pain can be disabling and pour into every aspect of life. Individuals with chronic persistent pain can have a severely reduced quality of life.

An acute disc injury can be very common in the active and working population. Everybody fears a disc injury as it is often times described as one of the worst pain experiences one could have in the back.

Patients with an acute disc injury sometimes present after a day of repeated and prolonged work associated with the bending forwards motion. Sometimes lifting heavy objects with poor postures may be the cause. With an acute disc injury, pain may be minor on the day of injury often times worsening the next day. A patient may also wake up with some stiffness and pain.

Patients may experience some of the following symptoms with an acute disc injury.

  • Pain in the back (often times dull and sometimes may manifest as a sharp pain type)
  • Pain at the glutes region (butt muscles)
  • Tightness in the back muscles
  • Changes in sensation such as pins and needles and or numbness occurring in the extremities.
  • Pain upon coughing or sneezing

Be mindful that these may vary from case to case and always consult a health professional to obtain advice and diagnosis.

Always avoid these:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Total Prolonged Rest/ Complete Bed Rest
  • Prolonged periods of sitting/ Being Desk bound (Unless specifically instructed by a healthcare professional)
  • Constantly worrying about the back pain
  • Vigorously stretching and moving into painful positions


  • Take short and frequent rests; however try to move without causing too much pain
  • Stop doing activities that aggravate back pain
  • Use a warm pack on the back for 15 minutes at a time
  • Make an Appointment to see your West Perth Physio at Perth Wellness Centre (for treatment, advice & to screen for serious injuries)

So what causes an acute disc injury? Movement of the spine into flexion is commonly to blame – as this places increased pressure onto the disc. When discs are repeatedly placed under high loads of stress they can develop a weakness in the integrity at the posterior aspect (back portion), as soon as the stress reaches a certain threshold, fluid from within the disc can leak out causing pain and sensitivity to the surrounding structures.

Although disc injuries can initially be very painful and “debilitating” patients are always told not to worry. Depending on the severity of the disc injury patients normally obtain relief from treatment within a week.

Severe cases may usually persist and gradually resolve within weeks or months.

With proper treatment & management a disc injury rarely ever causes any form of long term disability and pain.

Physiotherapy in the case of an acute disc injury aims to:

  • Identify the cause of pain (be it movement patterns, poor work postures etc.)
  • Screen for other serious conditions that may mask as a disc injury
  • Reduce pain and disability
  • Develop a treatment and management plan
  • Help patients better self manage
  • Work on preventing future episodes

By West Perth Physio Wayne Sun

If you are in need of help for your disc injury, feel free to contact our friendly staff at (08) 9321 1964