What is a Bulging Disc?
The spine is formed in such a way as to allow movement whilst also protecting the spinal cord (the nervous tissue that runs from the brain and down the length of the spinal column).
The spine is made up of vertebrae, separated by rubbery cushions, called discs. These jelly-like discs are soft on the inside with a tougher exterior (annulus fibrosus).
When some of the softer inside of a disc extends outside the space that it should normally occupy, you are said to have a bulging disc. This can impact on nearby nerves, causing pain and discomfort. It may also lead to numbness or weakness in a leg or arm. It is most likely to occur between the 4th and 5th vertebrae in the lower back which bare the impact of most of the weight of the upper body.
Please note that in the early stages of an acute disc problem the body goes into a severe shut down mode. This particularly affects the forward and backward bending muscles (erector spinae) and side bending (quadratus lumborum) muscles; This is a part of your protective mechanism. For this reason we do NOT advise using pressure tools for the first 6-8 weeks or until the acute crisis has ended. Pressure tools can be safely used thereafter, but always consult a doctor or therapist if you are concerned.
What are the Symptoms of a Bulging Disc?
In some cases someone who has a bulging disc may experience no symptoms.
However, in most cases you will experience some discomfort, depending where in the spine it occurs and if the local nerve tissue has been affected.
Where enough disc tissue has protruded out and is touching the spinal nerves nearby, you may feel a shooting pain. This pain would be distributed in the nerve and often on one side of your body. This “referred” pain can be accompanied by numbness and tingling in the part of the body that is affected by those nerves.
If you have a bulging disc in your neck, you will most likely feel intense pain in the shoulder and upper arm. If the bulging disc is in your lower back, you are likely to feel pain in your buttocks, leg and sometimes foot. You may also experience weakness as the related muscle becomes affected, affecting your ability to hold items or causing you to stumble.
Who is Prone to a Bulging Disc?
Those between the ages of 30 and 45 may suffer from a bulging disc as a result of a sports injury or from heavy lifting or obesity.
Being male, getting older and a history of back injury all make you more prone to a bulging disc.
In addition those who regularly lift heavy objects, twist and turn their body, are exposed to constant vibration (from driving) or who sit for long periods are more likely to suffer from it.
TRIGGER POINT SELF TREATMENT TECHNIQUE:
This technique involves locating the heart of the trigger/tender point. When this is compressed it may well trigger a specific referred pain map (preferably reproducing your symptoms). This technique involves applying direct, gentle and sustained pressure to the point:
1. Identify the tender/trigger point you wish to work on (see illustration above).
2. Place the host muscle in a comfortable position, where it is relaxed and can undergo full stretch.
3. Apply gentle, gradually increasing pressure to the tender point until you feel resistance. This should be experienced as discomfort and not as pain.
4. Apply sustained pressure until you feel the tender point yield and soften. This can take from a few seconds to several minutes.
5. Steps 3-4 can be repeated, gradually increasing the pressure on the tender/trigger point until it has fully yielded.
6. To achieve a better result, you can try to change the direction of pressure during these repetitions.
TRIGGER POINT SELF HELP - ADVICE
There are many reasons why you might have trigger points, so it is important to consider your trigger point pain in the context of the rest of your body. It must be stressed that the techniques offered on this page are not a substitute for therapy from a qualified practitioner; although aches and pains from trigger points are common, there can sometimes be an underlying pathology. It is advisable to always seek a proper diagnosis from a qualified medical practitioner or experienced manual therapist.
Stretching is an important part of the rehabilitation process and should begin as soon as pain allows and be continued throughout the rehabilitation program and beyond - Good maintenance prevents re-injury.
Lying on your back, bend your knees into your chest and bring your arms out as a T
As you exhale, lower your knees to the ground on the right
Keep both shoulders pressed down firmly
If the left shoulder lifts, lower your knees further away from the right arm
Hold for 1-2 minutes each side
3 times each side, twice daily