Bulging Disc

Bulging Disc

A bulging disc occurs when your back suffers an injury to the intervertebral disc. This injury can have numerous terms describing mild to severe disc injuries. The shock-absorbing rings of glycoprotein and fibrocartilage that allow movement at each spinal level whilst separating your bony vertebral are known as spinal discs. Spinal discs also function to allow enough room for the spinal nerfs to leave from the spinal canal and transfer to your limbs.

A bulging disc which is often referred to as a slipped disc can irritate and press against the nerve’s exits from the spine. This is a very unpleasant feeling and causes cramping, back pain, numbness, leg pain or pins and needles. Bulging discs can be caused by repeated micro-trauma over a long period.

One of the most common examples of this can be seen through poor posture. If you are someone who has poor posture when you go about your daily life you are causing stress to your spine. Your spine may be forced to overstretch which can weaken it over time and cause displacement and pain.

While you are in the early stages of training yourself to have better posture your lack of posture awareness and low muscle endurance will cause you to end up back in your old habits.

Your myotherapist can assist you by providing posture devices such as spine supports, back braces or Kinesio taping. This will allow you to maintain a healthy curve in your spine during the transition phase.

It is best practice to regularly alter your posture to allow your spine to remain healthy through movement.

If you experience a traumatic situation such as a car crash, this can lead to a sudden unexpected load on your intervertebral discs as your body attempts to fight back against the force of the trauma.

This can lead to a disc injury and tears of the fibres. Another common cause of an unexpected load is through lifting heavy objects. When lifting a heavy object it is extremely important to use the correct posture and avoid unsafe lifting techniques such as pulling with your back or bending forward. Your myotherapist is here to help you with these principles.

Risk Factors

 There can be genetic factors in play for bulging disc injuries. Some people may be born with increased elastin in their fibres or a lesser tissue density which can make them predisposed to an injury.

Other risk factors commonly seen are bad core stability, poor limb strength and excess abdominal fat. Genetic factors are considered to be moderate or mild risk factors for disc injuries. When disc injuries are sustained it is rarely caused by your genetics!

 Symptoms:

There are many easily identifiable symptoms associated with a bulging disc injury. You may suspect you have a bulging disc injury when your back pain is caused by:

sitting

forward bending

coughing or sneezing

lifting

bending

If you notice poor bowel function or an altered bladder you should look for immediate medical assistance as this could indicate a severe disc condition.

 Diagnosis:

 To diagnose a bulging disc your myotherapist or doctor would already suspect a spinal disc injury.

Following this, they will observe your injury history and examine how your symptoms behave. Clinical tests will be performed to confirm a disc injury and to see if you have any nerve compression. To get the most accurate diagnosis, a CT scan or MRI may be required. X-Rays can be useful for observing degenerative disc conditions.

Treatment:

 It is common to be able to treat moderate and minor bulging disc injuries conservatively without needing surgery. If the fibres in your annulus are torn they will generally heal and the disc bulge will fully resolve. In this stage, your myotherapist will focus on keeping your fluid centred in the disc and encouraging it to return. This allows the torn fibres to remain close and keeps the structure stable and healthy.

There are positions your myotherapist can recommend and assist you to stay in through the use of braces or tape. They will also advise you on the best positions to avoid!

The first phase of treatment for your bulging disc revolves around managing your pain! This will largely be treated by managing your inflammation, which is the major reason why sudden bulging disc symptoms occur. This can be managed through exercises and ice therapy to lower the inflamed structures.

There is a large array of treatment tools and methods available to your myotherapist; such as massage, braces, acupuncture, ice, electrotherapy and much more!

 Your myotherapist in the second phase will focus on restoring your natural range of motion, muscle length, strength, endurance and alignment once your pain and inflammation have settled! In this stage of the recovery, your myotherapist will begin to engage your core in a stability program to strengthen the muscles that control your spine.

This stage of treatment may also be paired with a massage or stretching program to assist in addressing your shortened or tight muscles.

 To achieve your functional goals; in phase 3 your myotherapist will tailor your back rehabilitation to improve your back’s dynamic control! This will be achieved through restoring your spine and pelvic alignment as well as its range of motion in more unorthodox posture positions. In this stage, we will also need to improve your leg muscle power and outer core.

Your myotherapist will take into account your situation to determine the rehabilitation goals that need to be worked toward.

 Preventing A Recurrence

it is quite common for back pain to return, the fourth phase of your rehabilitation will be focused on preventing a recurrence. One major factor for preventing a recurrence is to focus on deep core and abdominal exercises routinely a few times per week.

Your myotherapist is here to help you identify the perfect core exercises for you. Your biomechanics and spine may also need to be slightly corrected and your muscle control may need to be improved. This can be through addressing foot biomechanics or through simple methods such as orthotics.

As you rehabilitate your injury you will need to continue with general exercises such as swimming, walking, yoga or a gym program to assist with back pain relief long-term.

Many bulging disc exercises may suit your recovery situation. Your myotherapist will consider your symptoms, how acute they are, the size of your disc bulge and the location. Following this, they will recommend the perfect exercises to help you return to your normal healthy lifestyle.

You will need to fine-tune your back stability and function to rehabilitate properly. This can be achieved by learning self-management techniques prescribed by your myotherapist.

What should you expect if you leave your bulging disc untreated? If you follow programs set by your health professionals you may be able to fast track your recovery. If your bulging disc is left untreated your body will naturally heal the injury.

Bulging discs, however, are quite a painful injury and seeking out advice from your myotherapist or doctor can be the best way to reduce the pain you are experiencing.

 Surgery:

 When you are afflicted with a bulging disc, surgery is occasionally required. Surgery is usually only utilised when non-operative approaches did not help with your pain. however, there are situations where emergency surgery may be required if you have severe symptoms such as muscle weakness, and bladder or bowel dysfunction.

Always speak to your doctor and myotherapist to get a gauge on your treatment strategy!

 Is Your Injury Serious:

 If you experience a loss of bowel or bladder function that is a sign that your bulging disc injury may be very serious. In cases such as this professional care is usually essential as there are significant effects on your nerve control.

It can even at times be an emergency when you lose your bladder or bowel control. This can require emergency surgery so it is important to be vigilant for signs that your injury is more serious.

 There are a few other signs that your bulging disc injury might be very serious:

1. altered or reduced sensation – at times bulging discs can reduce your ability to feel things or feel things touching you.

2. you are experiencing weakness in your limb muscles – this includes leg, foot, hand or arm weakness.

3. you are experiencing pain in your limbs such as legs or arms. This can highlight that your bulging disc is a more severe injury and it is recommended to seek professional advice asap.

The other two tests to decide whether your bulging disc is serious are through:

Spinal Pain: If you are experiencing localised spinal pain then your bulging disc is generally a mild injury. This is great as it means you can rehabilitate more quickly as long as you focus on low disc pressure exercises and posture.

Another tell is if you are feeling referred pain which is a pain in your arms or legs. If you experience this then it is likely your injury is more serious than if you were feeling purely spinal pain. Please seek professional advice as soon as possible if this applies to you!