Commonly called “herniated disc” or “ruptured disc” (or misleadingly called “slipped disc”), a disc prolapse is one of the common painful conditions of the spine. The spinal column is made up of a number of bones called vertebrae. Between these vertebrae are discs which prevent the bones from rubbing against each other during movement, and act as shock absorbers during impact. In the lumbar spine (lower back), the discs are composed of a fibrous outer layer and a gel-like inner layer. When the outer layer becomes worn through overuse or injury, the inner layer can leak or “prolapse” out of the disc and cause pain.
Sometimes, all it takes is a sudden and forceful movement (such as bending or lifting) to put too much strain on an already weakened disc and cause severe pain. If the prolapsed substance touches a nerve, pain, weakness, and reduced sensation can be felt along the nerve, usually down the buttock or leg. This is known as sciatica.
Staying active during the acute stages of lower back pain is preferred over bed rest, as long as the activity does not aggravate the pain.