The intervertebral disc is the spongy tissue that is located between two vertebral bones in our spine – there are 23 discs in the human spine. Its main role is to act as a shock absorber and ‘cushion’ for the daily forces being placed on our spine. The disc also provides the spine with mobility, flexibility and stabilisation.
When we are young, our discs have a much higher water content. As we age, the water content of our intervertebral discs naturally reduces, leaving the disc more rigid and a lot less flexible. This can eventually lead to degeneration of the discs (arthritis).
What is a Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc is a condition that can be symptomatic (painful) or asymptomatic (not painful). It occurs when there is a weakening of the outer layer (annulus fibrosis) which allows the nucleus pulposus to move from its normal central position within the disc.
The difference between a disc bulge and a herniated disc is that with a disc bulge the annulus are still intact, therefore the nucleus will not penetrate through the annulus fibres, while if the annulus is torn or damaged the nucleus escapes from the disc, this is called a herniated disc.
A number of things can lead to a disc injury:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Repetitive trauma
- Bad posture
- Sudden trauma (eg; fall, lifting, car accidents)
Disc injuries can be extremely painful. The symptoms of a disc injury may vary depending on the location and what nerve may be compromised. People often report that the pain in the area is sharp and stabbing and that movement is very limited. Limited movement (muscle spasm) is the body’s response from potentially causing further injury.
People who are suffering a disc bulge in the lumbar (low back) spine may experience pain into the lower extremities including buttock, hip, knee, calf and/or foot pain. This pain is often referred to as sciatica. Please see our ‘sciatica’ information. Other symptoms of disc injuries can include: Tingling, numbness and/or weakness.
The location of the disc injury can often be identified by where the patient is experiencing symptoms.
A disc bulge is diagnosed by:
- A thorough history of the patient – how and when the injury started.
- Neurologic assessment of the body to determine the location of the injury. Muscle testing, range of motion and palpation will also be used to determine the location and prognosis of the injury.
- X-Rays, CT and MRI scans.
A number of trials have demonstrated clinical effectiveness for spinal manipulative therapy (chiropractic adjustments) for management of acute back pain. For chronic low back sufferers a recent Cochrane systematic review indicated Chiropractic adjustments provided patients with a positive outcome when combined with exercise.
Sims & Finn Chiropractic will provide you with a management plan to ensure you recover as soon as possible.
1) Goertz, C.M., et al., Adding chiropractic manipulative therapy to standard medical care for patients with acute low back pain: results of a pragmatic randomized comparative effectiveness study. Spine (Phila Pa 1976), 2013. 38(8): p. 627–634.
2) Hidalgo, B., et al., The efficacy of manual therapy and exercise for different stages of non-specific low back pain: an update of systematic reviews. J Man ManipTher., 2014. 22(2): p. 59–74.
3) Balthazard, P., et al., Manual therapy followed by specific active exercises versus a placebo followed by specific active exercises on the improvement of functional disability in patients with chronic non specific low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. BMC MusculoskeletDisord., 2012. 13: p. 162–162.
4) Bronfort, G., et al., Supervised exercise, spinal manipulation, and home exercise for chronic low back pain: a randomized clinical trial. Spine J, 2011. 11(7): p. 585–598.