Disc bulge

A disc bulge is also referred to as a slipped disc or prolapsed disc.  Having a disc bulge is pain that physiotherapy can assist with.
A man clutching his side in pain with an illustration of a close up of his spine | Featured image for Back Injury Physiotherapy.


Our spine is made up of interlocking bones known as vertebrae and separating each of the vertebrae are discs. Discs are the shock absorbers of the spine and allow cushioning between vertebrae during movement.

The disc is made up of an outer layer of fibrous connective tissue which envelopes the inner gel-like centre of the disc. It is the inner gel like substance of the disc that is easily able to change shape which can lead to disc bulges. Once cracks form in the outer fibrous layer of the disc, the gel-like centre is able make its way through and results in a disc bulge.


The result of continuous repetitive stress on the disc is most commonly the cause of a disc bulge. Activities which most commonly result in disc bulges are prolonged sitting, bending forward or lifting tasks.

All these positions result in flexion of the lumbar spine and if done for a long period of time, repeatedly or forcefully enough then a disc bulge can result.

Correct technique during such tasks to ensure you are placing the least amount of stress on the disc is often the starting point in physiotherapy.

With current research of lumber spine and the correlation with MRI results, disc bulges are more prominent then anticipated. The majority are asymptomatic until exacerbated. So loading changes of the lumber spine is completely normal and can correlate to the respective age of the patient.

A woman sitting at her desk with both hands holding her back | Featured image for Disc Bulge.
A mans back with an illustrated spine holding one of his hands on his neck and the other on his lower back | Featured image for Back Injury Physiotherapy.


The pain is usually felt during the provocation activity such as bending, bending whilst twisting or picking up objects such as that cake of soap in the shower. Patients can at times complain of deep constant pain across the lower back.

The pain can increase in intensity with sudden movements like bending, twisting or getting in and out of the car. If the disc bulge is significant enough, patient will complain of the pain radiating down into the bottom and or leg/s.

At time patients do not need to have centralised lower back pain but radicular pain to the upper hamstring and distally from that. Patients will also usually talk about the pain and stiffness being worst in the morning and becomes less intense after 30 minutes of movement or a hot shower.


Physiotherapy treatment is directed towards modifying movement patterns which lead to the overload on the disc in the first place. To start with, your physiotherapist will address restrictions in range of motion, joint movement deficits, muscle tightness or weakness and incorrect movement patterns.

Your Brisbane physiotherapist will utilise a range of manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue release, deload taping techniques, joint mobilisation/manipulation or dry needling therapy in treatment sessions. If necessary, you may also receive a targeted exercise program to address dysfunctions.

A woman giving a man (who is laying face down on a massage bed) a massage | Featured image for Back Injury Physiotherapy.
If you are experiencing pain during provocation activity, check out our blog on Prolapsed Bulging Discs or book an appointment to see our friendly physiotherapist.
Call us today on 07 3352 5116 or book an appointment online.
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