Bulging Disc

One of the biggest fears in back pain is a bulging disc. You are worried that your back pain is serious, that you have disc problems and surgery is your likely choice.


Although disc bulges are relatively common, most do not cause any pain at all. Statistics say that up to 60% of adults may have a disc bulge.

Disc herniations are rare and when they occur can cause back pain along with other radiating pains. If you have:

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control then seek medical attention immediately

  • Back pain with gradually increasing leg pain. (If you have weakness in both legs. Seek immediate attention.)

"What If I Slipped A Disc?"

Slipped discs are a term used that most times has nothing to do with major disc issues. In fact your discs will not 'slip' as the ligaments and tissues that support the disc are some of the strongest materials in your body.

What most people have in these situations is a bulging disc - where pressure from the joint and muscular imbalances creates pressure on the disc in certain areas.

These occurrences come from bigger falls or injuries or can be due to an accumulation of minor injuries over time.

Once the muscular and joint imbalances are relieved the pressure eases from the disc and the bulging disc may disappear.

Warning: Ruptured Discs are Serious

disc bulges are common When you have enough force to rupture or herniate a disc, where the material leaves the disc and enters the spinal canal ... this is serious.

These are times when surgery or medical intervention is necessary.

Please - if you have any loss of bowel or bladder control you need to seek help. If you are losing strength in your legs and the condition is worsening then please seek help.

These situations will heal, but you need to seek help ... enough said.

But these are rare occasions so don't worry ... most people just have a few muscular and joint imbalances.

But first...

What are intevertebral discs

Discs are those soft cushions found between the vertebrae that make up your spine or backbone. There is a canal that runs through the middle which contains the spinal cord.

The nerves to your arms and legs come from the spinal cord and exit the spine between the vertebrae. This is where a bulging disc or herniations can disrupt the nerve and create pain.

The nerves from the neck supply the arms and hands, and the nerves from the low back supply the butt and legs. The discs allow the back to move freely and act like shock absorbers.

There are two sections that form the disc:

  • Annulus - the outer part made of tough fibrous cartilage in a series of rings.

  • Nucleus Pulposus - the center jelly-like area. This is a ball of material that acts as the shock absorption and if under pressure will squeeze out of the Annulus in herniations or cause the outer fibers to bulge.

What symptoms can occur with disc complaints?

In disc conditions back pain is not always felt, in most cases of a bulging disc you are completely unaware of any pain at all.

When you do injure a disc and it becomes a problem the common symptoms are:

  • back pain which can be anything from sharp to a burning sensation

  • altered sensation in your buttocks and legs

  • in severe situations you may get actual numbness, loss of strength and at times bowel and bladder control issues (in these situations please seek help)

To understand this further you need to know more about how nerves work...

The outer fibers of the nerve create what is called 'paraesthesia' which is the altered sensations of tingling, burning and a sensation of numbness.

You can feel a difference between paraesthesia and 'true' numbness by pinching the skin. If you can feel a pinch then you have paraesthesia ... if you can't then true numbness exists and you need to seek help.

The deeper fibers of the nerve create pain and the deepest will cause 'true' numbness and loss of strength and power.

Is my back pain serious?

lower back pain may be serious Having pain or paraesthesia symptoms indicates a minor or moderate disc issue such as a bulging disc. Losing strength or having 'true' numbness indicates a more serious situation.

There is still nothing to worry about. Most severe disc injuries will still heal with conservative treatment and the need for surgery is low.

In fact - many studies have shown that conservative treatment is better and more effective than surgery. Surgery (in my opinion) should be a last resort unless symptoms are extreme.

Acute pain and radiations of pain are not always a major concern...

Radiating pain DOES NOT mean you definitely have disc, in many cases you have a few muscular and joint imbalances, along with a few trigger points that refer pain.

Identifying the distortion patterns that exist in your spine helps you discover where the problems lie.

How do you know you have a bulging disc?

Diagnosis for disc injuries is done via a good assessment and examination ... each nerve has a dermatome which is an area on the skin it refers to. From mapping these areas you can work out which bulging disc is involved.

In herniations an MRI is the only exact way of finding these (and in many cases the symptoms are there and the MRI is clear). X-Rays will indicate a location of stress as the disc height appears less - but they do not indicate herniations or even disc bulges.

Both MRI's and X-Rays do not show how well joints move or whether muscles are out of balance ... remember these are only a static picture of a moving system.

They will indicate severe injuries or changes, which are rare in most back pain conditions.

Why do discs herniate or bulge?

As the central area of discs is mainly a fluid like jelly, UNEVEN pressure will force the jelly to one side.

the central disc bulges The uneven pressure is caused by the various joint and muscle imbalances that create a twisting or distortion pattern to occur.

As these patterns develop the spine will compress unevenly and one side will tilt squeezing the disc. If too much pressure is applied a bulging disc will occur.

These disc bulges (remember 60% of adults have them and have no back pain ... ever) can sit there until you lift something heavy, have a fall or even as you age and discs weaken ... and suddenly the pressure build to allow herniations to possibly occur.

Although a bulging disc is common, the majority of back pain is still just a few muscles and joints out of balance. Disc injuries are uncommon and nothing to worry about - you can still fix a bulging disc in most situations.

Okay ... I have a bulging disc what now?

Conservative treatment is still the best option even if you have severe disc injuries. Treatments include seeing practitioners for therapy including ice/heat, ultrasound, cortisone injections, traction, manipulation, medication and even surgery.

There are two problems...

These may at times help the disc to heal and symptoms ease, but they do not address the underlying cause of the disc injury.

The second problem is these options are usually costly and time consuming.

To allow the bulging disc to heal properly you need to do two things:

  • Remove the pressure from the disc

  • Help the disc heal and reabsorb the fluid leakage

Using the traditional treatments, you will only get short term symptom relief as neither of these occur.

To remove the pressure you must eliminate the various muscular and joint imbalances which will ease the compression stress on the disc. You can help this further by using local traction which encourages the disc to reabsorb the disc material.

Once this is achieved you still then to make sure the bulging disc heals and regains its strength. There are many simple ways to rehydrate the disc which will increase its strength, along with a few Acupressure techniques to stimulate the healing process.

Due to the nature of how discs work, the imbalances that occur, you need to apply techniques daily to encourage the disc to heal gently. Good steady healing means a life-long result of being pain free ... and the disc returning to normal.

A bulging disc is a worry for most, but simple enough to fix ... as long as you target the main causes of the bulging disc. Which is not the disc itself but the pressures created by the various joint and muscle imbalances.

What is the best approach to ease your bulging disc?

To get long lasting results you must both remove the symptoms and the cause. First you must identify which spinal imbalances are present, then attack the symptomatic processes. This can be achieved by using many techniques from ice/heat, Acupressure and anti-inflammatory measures. Then you must perform corrective techniques that target the spinal imbalances.

The principles of Spinal Balancing address the both the pain and the root cause of the condition that is responsible for your lower right back pain. Through self assessments, your individual spinal imbalances can be identified, and a targeted corrective program can be developed for your specific needs.


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