A bulging disc is an injury to the spine. It is commonly known as a slipped disc. This injury is caused to intervertebral discs of the spine, and it will present in the lower back, upper back, mid back, or even the neck. When the injury occurs in the lumbar spine, it impacts the lower back. When pain is generated in the thoracic spine, it affects the middle or upper back. When pain is present in the cervical spine, it impacts the neck.
The spinal discs acts like shock-absorbers. These discs exist in between vertebrae, and the centre of the disc is liquid like and has a hard casing. Any slippage in the disc from its normal position can lead to an imbalance in the fluid causing it to swell on the outer side of the disc. This state is called a bulging disc.
Causes of Bulging Disc
The bulging disc can be caused by various reasons. One reason would be the aging process. With age, the discs becomes weaker. Another reason is a sudden increase in pressure on the disc. This causes the fibres to tear apart. The reasons of a bulging disc can be classified into three broad areas:
1) Improper posture during walking, sitting, and standing. Incorrect posture can lead to straining of the spine, which leads to weakening of the discs. Over time, this weakening of the discs can cause displacement. Maintaining the right posture to stand, sit, and walk are techniques with which we can avoid this. Also, you need to continuously change your posture. Continuous change of position will keep the spine in motion, and help it to remain healthy.
2) Sudden pressure in the intervertebral disc can lead to distressing situations. Due to a sudden impact, tremendous force gets exerted on the spine. The body will try to repel the force causing distortion. Correct posture here is a mechanism to avoid this case. We need to have the right posture when lifting heavy objects. We should avoid bending forward to lift the objects. Also, we should avoid taking a load on the back when lifting the heavy objects.
3) There are cases where this disorder is genetic in nature. People with a lesser density of and increased elastin component of the fibrocartilaginous fibres are more prone to bulging disc. Even cases with access to abdominal fat, poor limb balance, and poor stability of core can lead to this situation. Even occupation has a role to play here. People with heavy physical work and even very light physical work are prone to this.
Diagnosis of Bulging Disc
Based on the nature of the injury, a physiotherapist will suspect a spinal disc injury. You will need to perform various clinical test to confirm the nature of the injury. If your physiotherapist suspects any nerve compression, then he will direct you to carry out CT and MRI scans. In MRI scans, disc bulges can be identified. X-rays generally do not show accurate bulging. However, X-rays can give an indication of disc narrowing.
Bulging Disc Treatment
Managing inflammation is the first line of treatment for a bulging disc. Pain in a bulging disc can be excruciating. This includes therapy like ice therapy, electrotherapy, use of a back brace, acupuncture, using tape, and massaging techniques. Once the pain is brought under control, the next activity is bulging disc exercises. This includes lower abdominal and core stability programs to stabilise the spine. The next stage is restoring full function. In this, a physiotherapist will to restore spinal alignment and motion during stressful postures. The final step is the prevention of recurrence. This is mainly done by doing specific exercises recommended by the physiotherapist.