"What is a Bulged Disc?"

A bulged disc is synonymous with a bulging disc and is very similar to a herniated disc diagnosis.  A bulged disc may occur anywhere in the spine.  A bulged disc refers to an intervertebral disc that shifts out of its anatomical position between two vertabrae.  An intervertebral disc is like a padding placed between your vertabrae to help with shock absorption.  You have 7 vertabrae in the cervical spine, 12 vertabrae in the thoracic spine, and 5 vertabrae in the lumbar spine.

A bulged disc may be caused by ageing, prolonged faulty posture, a traumatic injury, a sports injury or any number of accidental slips and falls.

Picture of a Bulged Disc.

Bulged Disc Symptoms

As you have a bulged disc, symptoms may include back pain, muscle weakness in the legs, and numbness or tingling in the legs. When an intervertebral disc becomes misplaced, it can create contact pressure on pain sensitive structures. See the bulged disc image showing where this pressure takes place on the lower back. 

Symptoms of a bulged disc can impact the feeling(s) in one or both legs.  Positions that place the spine in the most amount of flexion usually create the most amount of symptoms because the bulged disc is being pushed further out!

Diagnostic testing to confirm the presence of a bulging disc is important in order to establish a proper diagnosis and determine the level of the bulged disc.  This must be done with either an MRI (with or without contrast) or a CAT scan.  Your physician will determine which testing is best suited for your particular situation.

Bulged Disc Treatment

Treatment for a bulged disc usually includes physical therapy, chiropractic care, medication(s), therapeutic massage for symptomatic relief, lumbar traction, epidural injections, lower back exercise prescription, surgery, and bed rest.  An orthopedist specializing in the treatment of bulged disc lower back pain conditions should be employed early in the treatment process for greater success.

Long term outcomes for a bulged disc are relatively good as proper protocol is followed.  Your orthopedist will prescribe physical therapy for your condition and outline the proper treatment protocol for the physical therapist to administer to you.  Adhering to those actions that are best for a bulged disc is extremely important.  It is just as important to know what to do when you have a bulged disc, as it is to know what “not” to do with a bulged disc diagnosis.

Tommy Hoffman, P.T. By Tommy Hoffman, Licensed Physical Therapist


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