What is A Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc is a common spinal injury linked to your intervertebral discs. This injury can occur in one of three places: your lumbar spine (positioned in the lower back region), thoracic spine (upper and mid-back area) or in the cervical spine (positioned at the back of the neck). This injury can also be called a slipped disc or a protruding disc. What happens is the disc can press against nerves in your spine, causing irritation and sometimes agony. The pinch in the nerve causes spasms, cramping, pain and more.
What causes it?
It’s hard to pin down exactly what causes a bulging disc as there are many factors which are involved. One of the leading causes doctors have found in the last decade is age. As human beings, we rely on our backs so much we don’t even realise.
Your back relies on discs and other ligaments for support. “Discogenic Back Pain” develops when these tissues are placed under excessive stress, much like a rope that frays when it is stretched beyond its normal capacity. Most commonly, disc pain is not the result of any single event, but rather from repeated overloading. Your discs generally manage small isolated stressors quite well, but repetitive challenges lead to injury in much the same way that constantly bending a piece of copper wire will cause it to break. Examples of these stressors include: bad postures, sedentary lifestyles, poor fitting workstations, repetitive movements, improper lifting, or being overweight.
Approximately one third of adults will experience pain from a lumbar disc at some point in their lifetime. The condition is more common in men. Most lumbar disc problems occur at one of the two lowest discs- L5 or L4. Smokers and people who are generally inactive have a higher risk of lumbar disc problems.
Certain occupations may place you at a greater risk, especially if you spend extended periods of time sitting or driving. People who are tall or overweight have increased risk of disc problems.
Another reason is from genetics. Some people are lucky, and some aren’t when it comes to bulging discs. This result is because the problem can sometimes run in families.
What are disc pain symptoms?
Symptoms from disc pain may begin abruptly but more commonly develop gradually. Symptoms may range from dull discomfort to surprisingly debilitating pain that becomes sharper when you move.
How to treat it?
Depending on the severity of your injury, you may need to limit your activity for a while, especially bending, twisting, and lifting, or movements that cause pain. Bed rest is not in your best interest. You should remain active and return to normal activities as your symptoms allow. Light aerobic exercise (i.e. walking, swimming, etc) has been shown to help back pain sufferers. The short-term use of a lumbar support belt may be helpful. Sitting makes your back temporarily more vulnerable to sprains and strains from sudden or unexpected movements. Be sure to take “micro breaks” from workstations for 10 seconds every 20 minutes.
Rest may relieve your symptoms but often leads to stiffness. Seeking early and appropriate treatment like the type provided at Perth Chiro Centre is essential.
One way of treating a bulging disc is by taking over-the-counter pain medications. This solution is only recommended when the pain is mild to moderate and if you have checked with your medical practitioner that the anti-inflammatory medication does not react with any other current medications taken. It is best to seek your medical doctor’s advice before purchasing.
Things we can do to help;
Here is a brief description of the treatments we may use to help manage your problem.
Your chiropractor can assess joints in your body that are not moving freely. This can cause tightness and discomfort and can cause more inflammation and more pressure and irritation to a nerve already irritated by a disc bulge. Your chiropractor will apply a gentle force with their hands, or with hand held instruments, in order to restore motion to any “restricted” joints. Sometimes a specialized table will be used to assist with these safe and effective “adjustments”. Joint manipulation improves flexibility, relieves pain and helps maintain healthy joints.
Our clinics utilise flexion distraction tables to help with lower back disc bulge symptoms.
Flexion-Distraction Therapy is clinically proven to:
- Reduce pressure inside the spinal disc
- Widen the spinal canal
- Reduce pressure on the spinal nerves
- Return motion to spinal joints
This type of therapy is very safe, effective, and conservative approach for disc injuries, low back and leg pain symptoms, and a definite alternative to explore if spinal surgery has been recommended. This is a great alternative for those patients who are a little afraid to get adjusted manually by a chiropractor.
Overworked muscles often become tight and develop knots or “trigger points”. Chronic tightness produces inflammation and swelling that ultimately leads to the formation of “adhesions” between tissues. Your chiropractor will apply pressure with their hands, or with specialized tools, in order to release muscle tightness and soft-tissue adhesions. This will help to improve your circulation, relieve pain and restore flexibility.
Muscle tightness or weakness causes discomfort and alters normal joint function, leading to additional problems. Your chiropractor will target tight or weak muscles with specific therapeutic stretching and strengthening to help increase tissue flexibility, build strength, and ease pain. Healthy, strong, and flexible muscles may help prevent re-injury.
Related Article: Kicking Goals for your Spinal Health.