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Disc bulge

A disc bulge is also referred to as a slipped disc or prolapsed disc.  Having a disc bulge is pain that physiotherapy can assist with.

What is a disc bulge?

Our spine is made up of interlocking bones known as vertebrae and separating each of the vertebrae are discs. Discs are the shock absorbers of the spine and allow cushioning between vertebrae during movement.

The disc is made up of an outer layer of fibrous connective tissue which envelopes the inner gel-like centre of the disc. It is the inner gel like substance of the disc that is easily able to change shape which can lead to disc bulges. Once cracks form in the outer fibrous layer of the disc, the gel-like centre is able make its way through and results in a disc bulge.

What causes a disc bulge?

The result of continuous repetitive stress on the disc is most commonly the cause of a disc bulge. Activities which most commonly result in disc bulges are prolonged sitting, bending forward or lifting tasks.

All these positions result in flexion of the lumbar spine and if done for a long period of time, repeatedly or forcefully enough then a disc bulge can result. Correct technique during such tasks to ensure you are placing the least amount of stress on the disc is often the starting point in physiotherapy.

With current research of lumber spine and the correlation with MRI results, disc bulges are more prominent then anticipated. The majority are asymptomatic until exacerbated. So loading changes of the lumber spine is completely normal and can correlate to the respective age of the patient.

What are the symptoms of disc bulge?

The pain is usually felt during the provocation activity such as bending, bending whilst twisting or picking up objects such as that cake of soap in the shower. Patients can at times complain of deep constant pain across the lower back.  The pain can increase in intensity with sudden movements like bending, twisting or getting in and out of the car. If the disc bulge is significant enough, patient will complain of the pain radiating down into the bottom and or leg/s.

At time patients do not need to have centralised lower back pain but radicular pain to the upper hamstring and distally from that. Patients will also usually talk about the pain and stiffness being worst in the morning and becomes less intense after 30 minutes of movement or a hot shower.

What will physio do for disc bulge pain?

Physiotherapy treatment is directed towards modifying movement patterns which lead to the overload on the disc in the first place. To start with, your physiotherapist will address restrictions in range of motion, joint movement deficits, muscle tightness or weakness and incorrect movement patterns.

Your Brisbane physiotherapist will utilise a range of manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue release, deload taping techniques, joint mobilisation/manipulation or dry needling therapy in treatment sessions.

If necessary, you may also receive a targeted exercise program to address dysfunctions.

For more information: check out our blog on Prolapsed Bulging Discs.