The lumbar spine is made up of lots of small bones called vertebrae that lie on top of each other. In between each vertebra is a disc which is made up of connective tissue and has fluid in the middle. Lumbar disc bulges are most prevalent in the middle aged population.

What is a bulging disc/slipped disc?

A bulging/slipped disc describes what happens when the fluid in the middle of the disc protrudes out because of a tear in the outer layers of the disc.

The fluid then bulges onto a nerve which will then cause the symptoms of a bulging disc to be felt.

What causes a bulging disc/slipped disc?

A bulging disc can occur over time as the disc is subject to damage and becomes weaker, eventually tearing. It can also occur instantly due to a movement putting a lot of force on the disc.

Three activities tend to cause bulging discs in your lumbar spine (lower back).

These are:

  • Lifting (particularly when twisting as well)
  • Sitting down
  • Bending forward

Sometimes a small movement such as sneezing may bring on the symptoms of a bulging/slipped disc and this may be because the disc has been subjected to prolonged lifting, bending or sitting and this small movement has been the final movement to make the disc bulge.

What are the symptoms of a bulging disc/slipped disc?

You may suddenly feel back pain and symptoms are usually felt in the lower back area and can be felt on one side, both or in the middle.

Pain may radiate into the buttock or legs or into the foot (sciatic pain) and may be felt alongside:

  • Pins and needles
  • Numbness
  • Weakness

Symptoms are generally made worse when bending forwards for example touching your toes, sitting for long periods, lifting or sitting to standing.

Coughing, sneezing and twisting may worsen the pain.

How is a bulging disc/slipped disc diagnosed?

Your physiotherapist will carry out a complete subjective and objective examination to see whether you have a bulging/slipped disc or if something else is producing your symptoms. Scans such as MRI or CT scans aren’t routinely required for this condition however they may be useful to confirm diagnosis.

What treatment can Farrell Physiotherapy offer for a bulging disc/slipped disc?

You will initially have an assessment and following this your physiotherapist will create a treatment programme tailored to you. There are many treatment options for a bulging or slipped disc and treatment varies between individuals. Your physiotherapist will choose the most appropriate treatment methods for you based on your symptoms and response to treatment. Several treatment methods are often used together.

Treatment can include:

  • Joint mobilisation
  • Joint manipulation
  • Traction
  • Electrotherapy
  • Soft tissue massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Range of movement exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Advice and education
  • Exercises specific to moving the disc back into place
  • Core stability exercises and Pilates
  • Activity modification advice

Benefit of physiotherapy for a bulging disc/slipped disc?

There are several benefits of physiotherapy for this condition with our aim being to get you back to your best as quickly as possible. The particular benefits you feel from physiotherapy will depend on your original symptoms and goals.

Physiotherapy assists with:

  • Reduced pain
  • Increased range of movement
  • Increased function
  • Increased strength
  • A quicker return to work
  • Prevention of re-injury

If you would like to book an assessment for a bulging disc or enquire further, please call 01245 830280 or e-mail: