What is a bulging disc?
When people hear the words “bulging disc”, they think of it as a death sentence. But what is it really and is it as bad as people think it is?
Herniated discs, or bulging disc, is the most common form of back injury debilitating many people every year. These discs that people speak of is what we in the medical profession call an intervertebral disc. The disc along with the bones in our back, called vertebrae, make up our spine. The job of the discs are to:
- Shock absorb.
- Allow for spinal movement.
Part of this disc can inch backwards causing a “bulge”, caused by repetitive bending or heavy loading of our spine in a forward bent position. This can cause low back pain and in some cases radiating leg pain, numbness, pins and needles, tingling or weakness.
What area of the body does a bulging disc affect?
Bulging discs occur most commonly in the lower back but can less commonly also occur in the neck. The main symptom of a bulging disc is localized lower back pain with bending forwards. If the bulge is significant enough to press onto the spinal cord other symptoms can occur including buttock pain, radiating leg pain, numbness, tingling, pins and needles or weakness. Generally, the further down the leg the symptoms present the more alarming the condition is.
What causes a bulging disc?
Repetitive bending forwards or heavy lifting can cause a bulging disc. Those with labour intensive jobs who do not lift safely are at a higher risk of a disc injury. Despite this, it is not uncommon for people to injure their back picking up lighter things like a piece of paper or a pillow from the floor which us clinicians see often. Once hurt, activities such as prolonged sitting, bending, lifting, twisting, sneezing or coughing can cause pain in the back.
Do I need a scan for my bulging disc?
A physiotherapist can assess and diagnose your pain if it is a bulging disc. An MRI can confirm a bulging disc, although that will not change the approach the physiotherapist will take in rehabilitating your lower back pain. If you do have an MRI showing bulging discs and you do not have pain, do not be alarmed. In fact, most people do have bulging discs with no pain. If there is no pain then there is nothing to worry about.
Do I need surgery for my bulging disc?
Surgery is not the first option when treating a bulging disc. It is recommended that you try a less invasive treatment such as physiotherapy before you go under the knife. Many studies show a similar outcome in 2 years between groups of people who have spinal surgery for a bulging disc and those that only have physiotherapy as treatment.
How can physiotherapy benefit bulging disc?
- Assess which movements are most provoking to you.
- Give you pain relief with massage.
- Educate you on how you can avoid making your pain worse.
- Give you exercises to return you to your usual activities.
- Teach you safe lifting technique.
Physiotherapists are experts in movement and rehabilitation. They are well equipped at identifying your condition and getting you back to work, sport or life!
A bulging disc is not the be all or end all! Most bulging discs rehabilitate to the point where people do not have any pain at all under the right guidance! If you need help with your lower back pain, do see a physiotherapist to have the back assessed, diagnosed and looked after so that you can return to your pain free lifestyle!
About Brian Lee & Primal Physiotherapy
Brian graduated from Latrobe University with a Bachelor of Health Science and Masters in Physiotherapy Practice. Brian is a certified strength and conditioning coach having worked with a range of athletes from Olympic to casual level. Brian enjoys training at the gym as he believes that this is the best way to give you the results you need to get your injuries back on track. When not in the clinic, Brian loves to shoot some hoops!
Brian is a Physiotherapist at Primal Physiotherapy which is a leading Physiotherapy clinic with state of the art rehab facility to help their clients return back to life, work, and exercise pain-free.