Bulging Discs

Discs essentially consist of two layers, a strong firm outer shell and a soft centre. Picturing a sachet of tomato ketchup is any easy way to understand the mechanics of a disc. As you apply pressure at one end of the sachet the ketchup moves and exerts a pressure at the other end. So as we bend and twist our spines, this soft centre responds to external pressures.

What's the cause?


These can broadly be divided into 3 groups.

  • Accumulative forces/stresses

  • Trauma

  • Familial


Accumulative forces/stresses


So now let's consider the effects of bending, lifting and poor posture on the spine.

When we maintain an S shaped posture, forces act primarily straight through the disc.

However when we sit, bend or lift poorly and adopt a C shaped posture, forces begin to act from one side of the disc and so increase pressure.

Again if poor postures and poor movement patterns are sustained an accumulative stress footprint develops over time which can result in bulging of the outer wall from an internal displacement of the soft centre which is then referred to as a slipped, prolapsed or bulging disc. In addition we know that as we age the soft centre loses water content and hence viscosity resulting in a gradual attenuation of its shock absorbing properties which results in a loss of disc height. Accumulative micro-trauma of the kind can weaken the outer wall and instances where the soft centre actually breaks through the outer wall are referred to as disc herniations.

It is important to stress that bulging discs do often exist without the individual having any symptoms. The reason being, that in some situations there is adequate space for the bulge, with no pressure being exerted on sensitive structures.


So what does it feel like?


Generally bulging discs are not a cause for concern as they often settle spontaneously. Symptoms can include pain, numbness and muscle weakness with the distribution of symptoms being determined by whether a nerve is being compressed and secondly at which spinal level the compression is taking place.


What can I expect?


The good news is that the overwhelmingly number of bulging discs do not require any surgical intervention. The recovery period can vary from a few weeks to a few months with a small percentage of cases taking up to a year. The key to a quick recovery is to create an environment for the body to help itself. All the evidence suggests that providing we control the symptoms, keep mobile and avoid the offending postures and activities the symptoms can and will invariably begin to improve.


So what do we offer to help recovery?


What we won't do is to offer you multiple sessions of treatment each week for months! What we will do is thoroughly examine you and provide a professional opinion as to the best way to manage your specific symptoms, provide symptomatic relief if required, help to improve your spinal mobility and core strength, provide preventative and ergonomics advice and arrange investigations if required.

How we help; below is a list of common treatments and ergonomics services.


  • Manipulation

  • Acupuncture/cupping

  • Restorative exercise

  • Core Exercises

  • Soft Tissue Massage

  • Electrotherapy

  • Heat Packs

  • Rehabilitation

  • Strength Exercises

  • Stretching Exercises

  • Supportive Taping & Strapping

  • TENS Machine

  • Yoga

  • Carry out a workstation and or vehicle inspection to identify pain provoking postures.

  • Carry out a home inspection and advice on the interface between you and your furniture for example. whether your mattress is right for you, the suitability of your seating etc

  • Develop a personal conditioning programme using ergonomics principals.