What is Bulging Disc?

Bulging disc, also called herniated or slipped disc, is one of the main causes of pain in the lower back.

The progression of a disc problem is as follows:

  • Healthy disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Herniated disc (protrusion)
  • Ruptured disc (extrusion)

As a disc bulges, herniates, and ruptures, it affects spinal nerves and can lead to a number of problems listed below.

Should I Suspect Herniated Disc?

Signs and Symptoms of herniated disc are:

  • Pain in the neck, back, low back, arms, or legs
  • Pain made worse by coughing, sneezing, reaching, or sitting
  • Numbness/tingling in neck, shoulders, arms, hands, hips, legs, or feet (also a symptom of sciatica, or a pinched nerve)
  • Weakness in arms/legs
  • Difficulty moving the neck or back
  • Limping
  • Stooped forward or side leaning posture
  • Difficulty arising from chair
  • Pain from prolonged sitting/standing
  • Worst pain in the morning

The good news is that herniated disc can resolve on its own. For ruptured disc/extrusion, the gel-like substance surrounding it is recycled through the blood to heal the same disc.

Many people don’t know this, but the bad news is that herniated disc may cause no pain. In one study detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine, 100 of 125 mostly asymptomatic people had some degree of herniated disc (bulge, protrusion, or extrusion) as shown by an MRI.

Will I Get Herniated Disc?

Adults over the age of 50 are most likely to develop herniated disc. Watch out for these things that make herniated disc more likely:

  • Smoking
  • Extra body weight
  • Certain occupations (especially office work)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Improper body mechanics

Exercises help to relieve the symptoms of herniated disc. Walking is good, and the most effective exercises are those which strengthen the core muscles and support spine flexibility.