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Physical therapy for bulging discs

What is a bulging disc?

Also known as a herniated disc, a bulging disc occurs when an intervertebral disc loses its shape and begins to compress a spinal nerve. An intervertebral disc is made up of two parts: an outer shell of cartilage and an inner shell of jelly-like material. If the outer shell becomes weakened or brittle, the soft inner gel can deform the disc.

When a disc is herniated, the soft inner gel breaks through the outer casing. If a disc is bulging but not herniated, the gel has deformed the spine but not necessarily broken through the cartilage. A bulging or herniated disc can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and discomfort in the back, which can radiate into the chest, buttocks, legs, or arms.

Source: North American Spine

Bulging disc symptoms

The symptoms of a bulging disc vary depending upon its location. If the herniation is in the lumbar spine, patients may experience pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and even feet. Bulging discs in the cervical spine, on the other hand, will typically cause these same symptoms — but in the neck, arms, hands, or head.

Those in the thoracic spine are the least common type, and can cause upper back pain that radiates through the stomach or chest. Patients sometimes confuse this pain for a cardiovascular problem.

Severe bulging discs can make it difficult for the patient to walk and will sometimes produce feelings of heaviness in the legs and back.

The most common symptoms of a bulging disc include:

  • Numbness, tingling, or pain in the back
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain in the legs or arms
  • Difficulty walking

Source: WebMD

What causes a bulging disc?

Advanced age is a significant risk factor, as spinal cartilage can become weak and brittle over time, leaving the patient more susceptible to the condition. Patients are at greater risk if they have had poor posture for most of their lives, as sustained spinal slouching can overstretch and weaken the spine’s cartilage.

A sudden unexpected stress on the spine, such as lifting a heavy object with improper form or a car accident, can also cause a bulging disc. A heavy load or strong force on the spine can cause the cartilage to weaken, crack, or break.

The most common causes of a bulging disc include:

  • Age
  • Repeated stress
  • Sudden, unexpected stress

Source: PhysioWorks.com.au

Physical therapy for a bulging disc

Physical therapy plays a primary role in recovery for patients suffering from bulging discs — particularly given that surgical intervention is often not opted. Both passive and active methods of physical therapy can be used to reduce pain and improve mobility.

Passive physical therapy techniques for bulging discs usually include deep tissue massage, hot and cold therapy, electrical stimulation, and hydrotherapy. Active treatments include core strengthening exercises, stretching, active hydrotherapy, and exercises to strengthen the back, legs, and arms.

Source: Spine Universe

Luna physical therapists treat bulging discs

Luna’s experienced physical therapists can help patients recovering from bulging discs — restoring mobility, increasing flexibility, and reducing pain. With proven techniques and personalized PT programs, our licensed practitioners design treatment programs tailored to each patient’s unique needs.

The best part? With Luna, patients can receive their PT at home, or even at their office. It’s convenient. It’s effective. It’s physical therapy, delivered.

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