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3 Definite Signs You Have A Slipped Or Bulging Disc

3 Definite Signs You Have A Slipped Or Bulging Disc

Everything seemed just fine until you bent down to tie your shoe, and you were seized with shooting back pain. What happened? Could you have a slipped disc? This article will discuss what a slipped or bulging disc is and how to tell if you have it.

What is a slipped or bulging disc?

Discs are found in between each set of vertebrae along your spine. They are gel-like rubbery cushions that provide height and act as shock absorbers to cushion the joints of the spine during impact. They also allow for bending and flexion of the back. As a person ages these discs can lose volume and become compressed. Also, the discs can become damaged due to poor posture, injury, or poor body mechanics used in pushing, pulling, and lifting. The result of these kinds of compression can lead to a bulging disc. When the disc starts to bulge out, it pushes on nerves passing through the spinal canal resulting in back pain.

Symptoms of a Slipped or Bulging Disc 

When an intervertebral disc has bulged beyond its normal borders, it begins to push on nearby nerves resulting in symptoms including:

  • Localized lower back pain
  • Radiating pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the buttocks, legs, or feet
  • Muscle weakness in the legs
  • Muscle spasms in the lower back
  • Problems bending or straightening your back

Out of these symptoms we will focus on the main 3 signs that could indicate you have a bulging disc.

Pain when sitting for prolonged periods

  • Yes, it can seem obvious that pain is a telltale sign, but it is often the first sign, and one that may be overlooked longer than necessary. The pain associated with a bulging disc is often localized to that specific area of disc involvement. Do you find it difficult to stand after sitting for prolonged periods? Sitting increases the pressure on discs more so than standing. You may feel the pain increase in your back the longer you sit, and the pain may radiate to your hips and buttocks as well. If you find yourself suffering from this type of pain, avoid slouching while sitting and aim to sit with a slight arch in your lower back. You may place a small rolled towel to support your arch. If you work in an office setting, try to get up often for frequent walks or stretches. If possible, change your computer workstation to a standing one.

Increased pain when bending forward

  • Like the introduction at the preface of this article, those with a bulging disc find it difficult to bend over or find that they experience a sharp increase in pain. Pain when bending over can include actions such as bending over to brush your teeth, bending over to pick up a bag, a small child, or any objects that are low to the ground. If you find yourself suffering from this kind of pain, try to adjust the way you bend by bending at the hips and keeping your spine straight, also known as the “hip hinge”. You can perform the hip hinge bend even when standing up from a sitting position.

Burning Leg Pain or Weakness

  • While the problem may have originated in the back, the nerves that a bulging disc can compress travel all the way down the leg. One nerve in particular, the sciatic nerve, travels from your hips all the way down to your feet. If a disc is compressing this nerve you can experience a range of painful sensations in your buttocks, legs or feet such as burning, stabbing, or shooting pain, tingling, or a pins and needles sensation. This nerve pain is known as sciatica and is associated with bulging or herniated discs. If you can identify what triggers your sciatic pain, you can avoid those actions. Some report that walking or laying on their stomachs for brief periods provides relief.

What if I have a bulging disc?

If you found any of those signs to be true about you, you could have a bulging disc. The quicker you act on such symptoms the quicker your recovery time. At Blue Hills Sport and Spine Rehabilitation we have skilled physical therapists who can provide a range of treatments to help get to the root of the problem and get you back to doing the activities you enjoy.