lumbar bulging discs and sciatica

Can you fix a bulging disc/disc bulge?

Bulging discs are very common findings on X-rays, MRIs and other radiological scans even when absent of pain or symptoms (see figure 1). Like all tissues in your body, injuries sustained to your spinal discs can heal to some degree however the notion of "fixing a bulging disc" is usually not where the focus needs to be. Chances are, your bulging disc was present months or even years before your pain and symptoms began.

Bulging discs can occur anywhere along the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. For more information on bulging discs in the neck/cervical spine, click here.

How long will my back pain last?

During your recovery, an individualised rehabilitation program is crucial to correct the physical contributing factors affecting your back. Factors include muscle weakness, spine/pelvic posture, joint stiffness and muscle tightness. These factors all prolong your pain and is likely why you developed problems in the first place. 

 

A crucial component in the healing process is circulation/blood flow. Unfortunately, circulation in the spine is not very good therefore it is more realistic to consider a healing time frame of 8-12 weeks.  Just because your pain has settled, does not mean you have fully recovered.

Have you been diagnosed with a lumbar (L1-L5) disc bulge?

So you have been diagnosed with a bulging disc and are experiencing severe pain. You have likely developed symptoms of sciatica and experience pain and tingling/numbness down your leg(s).  The pain is keeping you awake at night and your ability to perform simple tasks is affected. You are not sleeping well, becoming agitated and worried about how you will cope at work, provide for your family or play with your kids/grandchildren. You are taking a concoction of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication and have started to develop nasty side effects.  

Your Doctor has advised you to keep taking medication and rest and possibly suggests to consider a spinal injection.  With each passing day your back pain does not improve, instead it continues to cause you great distress and affects all aspects of your life. You feel helpless and unsure what you should do...

Unfortunately, the above scenario is very common and part of the reason people develop chronic lower back pain. Delayed treatment and poor management sets you up for long term issues.  

What treatment can help heal a disc bulge?

Your ability to heal is determined by many factors. Yes, your body can heal by itself however exercise, Physiotherapy treatment techniques, activity modification, nutrition and good quality sleep all play a major part in the recovery process.

 

Our Physiotherapists will guide you and empower you with helpful knowledge to maximise your recovery and prevent long term issues. Disc bulges do not have to cause long term pain. You can be pain free with the right management plan. Physio Physique has helped thousands of people suffering from back pain. 

Just remember, passive treatments are helpful to reduce pain and symptoms fast and are more important in the beginning of your recovery process. The real treatment is education, advice and exercise designed to get you moving safely and rebuild your body over 8-12 weeks. 

Why does my back pain take so long to settle?

When you are injured, your body naturally tightens up and becomes sensitive to protect you from additional harm. This can cause increased pain, joint stiffness, tight muscles and reduced blood flow. Protective mechanisms are a necessary evil however if not reversed in a timely manner can affect your body's healing ability, prolong your symptoms and cause subtle compensatory movement patterns.

Most people determine their recovery based on pain alone however research has shown that pain is not a good predictor of tissue health. 

Do not let your back pain turn into a chronic problem. The sooner you seek treatment, the faster and better you will recover.