The discs between our vertebrae contain a lubricating fluid which cushions the discs and helps to hold them in place. As age advances, the amount of fluid decreases causing the discs to move out of position, a condition referred to as a bulging disc. A bulging disc puts pressure on the spinal nerves causing pain in the affected region. Bulging discs can occur at any point on the spine but they are most common in the lower back (lumbar region).
The most common cause of a bulging disc is age-related degenerative changes. The other causes include
- Occupation: jobs that are physically demanding and involve repetitive tasks such as lifting, pushing, pulling, and twisting place additional stress on the discs
- Severe trauma or accident
- Conditions such as arthritis
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Improper lifting techniques
- A family history of disc diseases
The symptoms of a bulging disc include:
- Tingling in the legs or buttocks
- Weakness of the arms or legs
- Lower back pain radiating to the legs and feet
- Pain in the neck and arms
- Numbness in the limbs
Your physician may evaluate your symptoms and conduct a thorough physical examination which includes postural assessment and palpation of soft tissues around your spine. Based on your symptoms, the location of the bulging disc can often be determined. Your physician may recommend testing such as a CT scan, MRI or other imaging techniques. These diagnostic tests help confirm the severity of the condition and assist your doctor to determine a specific treatment plan for your situation.
Most individuals manage bulging discs and associated symptoms with physical therapy (PT) and medications without surgical intervention.
A structured physical therapy program helps to reduce or eliminate pain and discomfort caused by your bulging disc.
Various physical therapy modalities include therapeutic exercises, massage therapy, pain relieving techniques, traction, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation. The aim of physical therapy is to control pain and inflammation, strengthen the muscles, and improve spinal support, flexibility, and movement. You will typically have in clinic physical therapy appointments 2-3 times per week for about six weeks.