Does a disc bulge always cause pain and is it permanent?

What is a disc bulge?

Spinal discs are shock-absorbing rings that sit between each bone (vertebrae) in your spine. They are fluid filled sacks that allow for movement, support your spine and allow room for the spinal nerves to exit the spinal canal and travel to your limbs. A disc bulge can occur in your neck (cervical spine), mid back (thoracic spine) or lower back (lumbar spine). The disc can just have a mild strain, bulge or rupture and compress the nerves causing nerve related symptoms and pain.

What causes a disc bulge?

Disc bulges can be caused progressively by repetitive micro-trauma from poor posture, repetitive movements in a strenuous job/activity or suddenly by unexpected load or trauma such as a car accident or poor lifting technique and lifting a heavy object.

How am I diagnosed with a disc bulge?

Our Physiotherapists and Chiropractors can assess for disc bulges through a thorough assessment based on your history and symptoms, along with appropriate clinical tests. In a small amount of cases, a CT scan or MRI may need to be done to confirm a disc bulge and show which level it is affecting and the severity.

Is it the cause of my pain?

There are a variety of causes of spinal pain including inflammation, nerve irritation, muscle strain and spasm and mechanical non-structural pain. Research has found that having a disc bulge doesn’t necessarily correlate to pain. Among adults with NO HISTORY of current or previous back pain, 33% have a significant disc abnormality. This shows that a lot of people have disc bulges with no back pain at all. Therefore if you have an onset of back pain, even if you do have a disc bulge or prior history of one, it may be caused by something else and not the disc.

Is it permanent?

Disc bulges are not permanent. The disc is a fluid filled structure and therefore has the capacity to heal, resolve and be re-absorbed. Research has found and we have first-hand experienced patients with disc bulges that go through rehab from our Physiotherapists and Chiropractors and have repeat imagine (CT or MRI) which finds a resolution and no disc bulge. It can be reversible with the right type of management and treatment.

What’s the treatment?

Only a tiny proportion of people ever need surgery for a disc bulge. Physiotherapy and Chiropractic treatment can help you recover back to 100% through a conservative treatment plan decided upon by your health practitioner on an individual basis.

If you are concerned that you have a bulging disc and you would like to be assessed by one of our experienced health practitioners, please make a booking today. BOOK HERE

Written by Simone Richter, Physiotherapist, Pilates Instructor.