Bulging discs are a common MRI finding that may cause concern with those diagnosed with low back pain. In fact, thousands of Americans are diagnosed with disc bulges every year. However, more and more research is showing that many of these changes should be considered a normal any are not completely responsible for why a person hurts.
Bulging discs are often diagnosed following an MRI in the presence of back pain. A person is pain may choose to consult with a physician. X-rays and/or MRI’s might be ordered as part of the diagnostic process. An image is taken which may reveal thinning or bulging the intervertebral discs. The patient is then given the diagnosis of a bulging disc.
However, images can be misleading. There have been many studies that show that these type of findings have a very poor correlation with pain. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Bulging discs are present in very high percentages of healthy people with no problem at all. Many of these disc bulges found on images are part of normal aging and are NOT associated with pain.
Pain is complex and is influenced by more than what is happening on a structural level. In the presence of back pain, we may find tension, trigger points (knots), and tightness of lower back muscles. In addition, stiffness of the upper back and hips might be present. Weakness of the core and buttock muscles can be problematic as well. In many cases, proper movement needs to be taught (e.g. how to engage the posterior chain) to help offload irritated back muscles. However, the only way to know what may be contributing to lower back pain is to perform a thorough assessment.
After an assessment, our approach includes hands-on therapy to alleviate pain. This might include dry needling, soft tissue mobilization, or manipulation of the lumbar spine. We also may mobilize the bones in the thoracic spine and hips to reduce pain if these regions were found to be stiff or painful.
Pain and poor mobility often go together. If we can alleviate pain and reduce stiffness and tension through the region, mobility often improves. The next step is to perform corrective exercises so the pain and mobility improvements hold. The corrective exercises often target the muscles of the spine, core, and hips.
Once pain is controlled and muscles engage better, our next step is developing strength and durability with load. When performed with good technique, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and other “hinge” movements can develop strength of the core and back side and prevent injury down the road.
When addressed with a thorough physical therapy assessment and plan of care, overcoming disc bulges and back pain is possible. Ignoring symptoms, on the other hand, may lead to pain that simply does not go away. If you have back pain and have been told you have disc bulges, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to be a resource for you.
We have a free guide on relieving back pain and stiffness that can give you further insight into back problems and help kickstart your recovery. We are available for a free 15-minute phone consultation to talk about how your pain is affecting you and discuss your treatment options.
If your concerns warrant an in-person consultation, we offer a limited number of free Discovery Visits at our office. This type of appointment of for those who are interested in working with us. It is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your back pain and develop confidence that we can help you.
If you’re certain that we’re a good fit and ready to book an appointment, you can inquire about cost and availability and get the process started.
If you’re in pain and unsure about what your next step should be, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.