Disc bulge – to fear or not to fear

Bulging Disc

Disc bulges are one of the most common causes of lower back pain and are a very common presentation in Physiotherapy clinics. It sounds scary. Many people panic when they hear this as their diagnosis. But, the prevalence of symptomatic ‘bulging’ discs is about 1%-3% in the lower back, being most common in those in their 30s to 50s and men being twice as likely to receive the diagnosis. This is people actually experiencing symptoms. However, there is also a significant number of people that would have ‘bulging discs’ on scans that do not experience any symptoms at all, no pain or lack of function. Often these bulges can occur naturally as a process of aging and degeneration, but they can also occur with a traumatic incident. 


It is important if you’re experiencing any sort of lower back pain to go see your physio. We are trained to do a thorough assessment, a detailed discussion of your symptoms and assessment of your movements – before coming up with a management plan specific to you and your back! The good news, physios are very familiar with this presentation and exercise DOES help resolve symptoms. Hooray! People usually start to feel better within just a few weeks of physio, and continue to heal and feel better and stronger for a few months. 

So what exactly is a disc bulge?

Let’s step back and look at the anatomy. In your spine, there are things called vertebral discs. In these discs are gel-like substances called the nucleus pulposus. Sometimes when there has been a significant incident this fibrocartilage can move excessively extending beyond its usual margins into the outer layer, this can occasionally irritate the nerve roots as a result. Some people with disc bulges can experience both lower back pain and also leg pain, sometimes with numbness, and pins and needles. 

Ready to make an appointment?

Not quite? Carry on with the article below >

Physiotherapy is the first point of call, involving a tailored exercise program consisting of stretching and strengthening exercises for the lower back and core that are specific to YOU, to assist in recovery and return to each individual’s normal life. 

Surgery is always the last resort, unless there is significant neural compromise. Physio and conservative means should be trialed first, and surgery as a last resort if these options have not worked. 

If you’ve had a back injury, come and see our physiotherapists at FNQ Health Co and we can guide you through recovery and back to life and doing the things you love 🙂 

Sandy Mampitiya – Physio

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