Lumbar (Low Back) Pain Bulging Disc

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Is a Bulging Disc to Blame for Your Low Back Pain?

Spinal discs between each vertebra act as cushions to help absorb the impact of everyday living that your spine undergoes with essentially every move you make. When one or more discs in the lumbar (lower) spine becomes damaged, as in the case of a bulging disc, one of the first signs of a problem is low back pain.

Understanding Bulging Discs as a Cause of Lumbar Spine Pain

In order to understand what a bulging disc is and how it can become a contributing factor in low back pain, knowledge of the function and purpose of spinal discs is important. Your spine is made up of 24 bony and intricate structures called vertebrae. They are stacked on top of each other like blocks and they link together to create one long interior canal that houses and protects the spinal cord.

All of the vertebrae in the spine are separated by structures called intervertebral discs. When healthy, these discs behave like shock absorbers whenever you move, walk or run. They shield your spine and vertebrae from the impact. Flat, round and less than an inch in thickness, the discs between the vertebrae have a flexible and tough outer layer of cartilage and a soft gel-like center. In the lumbar (low) spine, there are five vertebrae and discs that separate each one. When one or more of these discs become damaged, low back pain can result.

It is important to clarify that there is a difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc. In the case of a herniated or ruptured disc, the spinal disc itself has cracked and allowed some of the inner jelly-like material of the disc to overhang the normal space it should occupy.

A bulging disc on the other hand means that the disc has not cracked and ruptured but is still being abnormally compressed to the point where it extends beyond its normal space between the vertebra. Some people describe the idea of a bulging disc as looking like a hamburger patty that appears too large for the bun it is in. A bulging disc tends to affect mostly the tough outer layer of cartilage surrounding a disc.

Bulging discs in the lumbar spine are typically more common than herniated discs and don’t usually cause low back pain. But low back pain can caused by a bulging disc is absolutely possible. While a bulging disc is often considered part of the aging process, it should absolutely be monitored by a spine health expert. Sometimes, early treatment to correct an issue with a bulging disc can not only spell low back pain relief, it can also help prevent the problem from worsening later on.

Tips for Preventing and Managing Low Back Pain at Home

  • Regular stretching and exercise can help prevent and ease low back pain.
  • When lifting heavy objects, use your legs for leverage, not your back.
  • Walk cautiously and wear shoes with good traction when walking on slippery surfaces.
  • When carrying something, be sure to distribute its weight evenly, not favoring one side.
  • Consult a spine specialist for severe low back pain that hasn’t resolved with conservative methods in a few weeks.

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