Today's post looks at disc bulges and why being told that a bulging disc is the cause of your back pain symptoms might not be 100% accurate.
Ah, the dreaded disc bulge … but is it really the cause of your back pain?
Maybe, yes... maybe,no....
The “intervertebral discs” separate the bones in your spine. Their construction is similar to that of the heels of many running shoes on the market… a soft, gel like substance is encased in a stronger surrounding material. And their purpose is similar. They both act as shock absorbers and shock dispersers.
Let’s take a closer look at how the running shoe heel works. Whenever you place your foot on the ground, the force of this “collision” sends waves of mechanical stress through the heel of the running shoe and into your heel. These forces then travel through your ankle, up your shin and thigh bones, through your hips and ultimately into you spine. The “gel” construction of the heel absorbs some of this force and the surrounding heel helps to disperse some of these forces. The end result of having these forces absorbed and dispersed is that you have a more comfortable shoe and therefore a more comfortable walking/running action, thereby reducing long-term mechanical damage to your knees, hip and spine.
And, your intervertebral discs are designed for a similar purpose. With every step you take, there are strong mechanical forces applied through your heel and ultimately into your spine. When you're seated, there are mechanical forces traversing through your “sitting bones” and into your spine. Without healthy intervertebral discs you’d feel like you’re sitting atop a jack hammer!
You cannot have good spinal or general health if you do not have good disc health.
What can cause your spinal discs to bulge?
There are a number of ways the discs in your spine can bulge or worse still, bulge so much that the gel substance in the middle of the disc leaks out.
Most dramatically, poor lifting technique or lifting an object without proper support can cause your disc to bulge in an instant. Your spinal discs work best when there is even loading of forces across the vertebra above it and the one below it. Improper lifting technique causes an imbalance in the load and this in turn imparts uneven pressure on the disc. And just like holding a balloon in your hand, any exertion of uneven pressure will cause the balloon to “bulge” … just like your disc will.
Discs can also bulge slowly over time, silently and without you even realising it. You see, the disc is but one component of your spines shock absorbing and shock dispersion system. The other prominent aspect is the shape of your spine. When viewed from the front it should be perpendicular to the ground. When viewed from the side there should be lovely flowing curves through the neck, thoracic and lumbar curves (see the image at the end of this post).
When these curves are altered (scoliosis, “text neck”, whiplash etc), the loading through the disc changes and they become susceptible to bulging.
Disc bulge. Accurate diagnosis or a diagnosis of convenience?
Over the years many individuals have consulted with me after being told they have a disc bulge. They’ve also been told their only options were steroid injections, exercise, surgery or that they just have to “live with it”. However, there is another viable treatment approach for your consideration.
Spinal manipulative therapy aka chiropractic care. Chiropractors have focused training on treating and managing individuals with bulging, even herniated discs and in some cases can manage your condition, thus avoiding surgery.
So before deciding on a course of treatment, it’s important to understand the accuracy of the technology used to identify disc bulges. After all, you rely on the diagnosis ... you should be able to rely on the technology used to form the diagnosis, right?
Consider these two points;
As you can see, being told you have a disc bulge might or might not be factual. Therefore, it’s important to consider a more conservative approach to treating your back pain … whether you have a disc bulge or not. If you have any doubts your how your symptoms can be treated, contact the Orange Chiropractic Centre. We utilise non-invasive treatment methods that can be used even with bulging or herniated discs.
If in doubt, give Orange Chiro a shout!
Dr. Mick Cornish first started providing trusted pain relief solutions to the people of Orange in 1998.