Physical Therapy for a Bulging Disc | IMPACT Physical Therapy

Bulging Disc Pain

Services Performed for Treatment of This Pain

Spine Rehab Return to Play: Concussion & Injury Recovery Manual Therapy

A bulging disc occurs when an intervertebral disc starts to lose its shape. This change can cause pain, numbness, or tingling as it begins to compress a spinal nerve. If you’re worried that your back pain is a herniated disc, know that it’s hard to tell from pain alone, and bulging discs might be managed with physical therapy.

Learn more about what causes bulging discs as well as how to use physical therapy for bulging discs with IMPACT Physical Therapy.

Spine Anatomy

The spinal column is made of vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs which act as shock absorbers. There is also the spinal cord that is a collection of nerves that run along the spinal column. Intervertebral discs are composed of two components; an elastic cartilage exterior called annulus fibrosus and an inner shell of jelly-like material called nucleus pulposus. If the annulus fibrosus becomes weakened, it can cause the nucleus pulposus to deform the disc.

Symptoms of a Bulging Disc

Symptoms of a bulging disc can include numbness, tingling, pain, or difficulty walking, although exact symptoms can depend on where in the spinal column the bulging disc is located:

  • Cervical- The cervical vertebrae are located in your neck, and a bulging of one of their discs can cause pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and weakness in the neck, arms, hands, or head.
  • Thoracic- The thoracic vertebrae are located in your chest, and are the least likely to bulge. If they do, stomach, chest, or upper back pain can result.  

Lumbar- pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and weakness can be felt in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and feet.

Causes of a Bulging Disc

Age is the most common cause for a bulging disc, as the annulus fibrosus spinal cartilage can become weak and brittle over time. Poor posture is also a cause, as slouching over time can cause the cartilage to overstretch and weaken. 

Diagnosing a Bulging Disc: How it Works

During your initial visit, a physical therapist will get a detailed medical history. They’ll also ask a series of questions pertaining to your injury to find out when symptoms started, when and where you feel the discomfort, and what activities are impacted by it. Then they’ll perform a physical examination to see if you have: 

  • Difficulty moving and/or walking
  • Weakness or tightness in the muscles
  • Joint stiffness
  • Numbness 
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Poor posture

If problems appear to be severe, your physical therapist may recommend seeing a doctor for an MRI.

Bulging vs. Herniated Discs: Physical Therapy

While complete herniation, or rupture, sometimes requires surgery, bulging discs can often be successfully treated with physical therapy. A variety of treatments can be used to help with spine rehabilitation, and the team at IMPACT will work with you to find the best physical therapy for your bulging discs. This can include:

  • Ice and heat
  • Manual therapy
  • Core strengthening exercises
  • Exercises to strengthen the back, legs, and arms

Schedule Physical Therapy for Bulging Discs With Us

If you suspect you have a bulging disc, the IMPACT physical therapy team can provide a diagnosis and treatment plan to help provide relief. We have multiple locations that offer physical therapy for bulging discs, so you can easily access the services you need. Contact us today to learn more!

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This content is provided by the APTA

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