THIS IS WHAT A DISC BULGE LOOKS LIKE
*only a little more realistic in the flesh*
*Note the difference from a herniated disc and degenerative disc*
It’s more common than you think and can be asymptomatic (i.e. cause no pain) in a lot of cases.
However, if it does cause pain it tends to be with bending forward or sitting for longer than 10mins. When it is acutely inflamed everything will hurt and often you cannot find a position of comfort.
QUICK TIP TO REDUCE ACUTE PAIN
You can try lying on the floor with your legs up and resting on a couch or chair. I like to add an ice pack underneath the spine while lying in this position.
You may also like to go for short walks (often) as this promotes blood flow to the area and will help to reduce your pain short term.
Gentle activation of your surrounding core stability muscles may reduce pain also.
WHAT ABOUT SURGERY
Surgery (in my opinion) is only an option when the disc is pressing on nerves that run down your leg and therefore you have symptoms such as leg pain, pins and needles and numbness that won’t go away even with proper management and time (six months is a good time frame to see if it will improve with conservative treatment). I recommend talking to your Dr or Physio about seeing an Orthopaedic or Neurosurgeon if your symptoms continue after 6 months.
The bulge itself will not go away completely but it can reduce in size over a long period of time (medical professionals have repeatedly suggested it can take up to 2 years for this to happen).
Only 1/3 of your disc is innervated by nerve tissue so this may be why it is not always a painful condition.
Inflammation can surround the disc tissue (and other soft tissue) in the spine which can be a great source of pain in the acute injury phase. Once swelling settles pain may disappear.
Acute injury often causes muscle spasm in the surrounding areas which is very painful and will limit your movement in the spine.
Exercise, including strength training, is a good way to improve your spinal stability and is useful in long term management and prevention of symptoms. You will also learn how to squat and deadlift properly under load, which are two exercises you perform daily as part of your regular routine (getting up and down off chairs and picking up items off the floor just as two examples). However, heavy lifting (close to your maximum) is not recommended.
You can come in to see one of the experienced Physiotherapists at April King Physiotherapy to help set up an appropriate exercise program for you. We can also improve your posture and movement patterns to help manage and prevent your pain in the future.