The Pain & Injury Doctor ONLINE Newsletter
Here is your latest pain relief tip. If it doesn’t apply to you, still take note because life is full of surprises. If you know someone who is dealing with this type of pain, please forward this email to that person– thanks!
Bulging Lumbar Disc
What is Happening:
One or more lumbar discs, most likely the Lumbar 4-5 or Lumbar 5-Sacral 1 disc is bulging or herniated. The term “herniate” is worse than “bulge” on an MRI report. Note that many cases of bulging discs are asymptomatic; meaning they produce no pain. If a bulging disc is producing pain, it usually means it is pressing against nerve tissue, or has a tear that is generating pain.
If the bulge presses on a spinal nerve root you may get numbness down the same side leg or foot. This kind of pain can be acute for several weeks, and then chronic-intermittent after a couple of months. It depends on the bulge size, your current physical fitness, age and what you do about it.
Tips for Self-Managing a Non-Surgical Case Disc Bulge
You goal is to reduce pain by a combination of home exercises, therapies and lifestyle adjustments. While your disc is healing, use ice and heat to manage the pain. Applying a TENS unit and taking natural anti inflammatory supplements can also help.
The three, main lifestyle adjustments are:
1. Stand more and sit less. Sitting long hours for years presses fluids out of your discs in the low back, making them prone to injury. Also, your lumbar spine bows outwards when sitting, creating rearward pressure on the discs, which promotes disc bulging.
If your job requires sitting at a desk for extended periods, consider getting an adjustable stand-up desk, and use it 50% of the time in the standing position.
Using a walker temporarily to get around while your back hurts is better than staying still (see below).
2. Lose weight if you are overweight. The less weight your discs have to bear, the less they will bulge outwards. Just a few millimeters reduction in a disc bulge can mean the difference between having pain or not having pain. Losing 30 pounds can cause a decrease in disc bulge size.
The weight loss approach that provides the fastest results is to restrict grain carbs and added sugar from your diet. This includes breads, pastas, desserts, etc. Increase your consumption of non-root vegetables, especially greens. For lunch and dinner, have a 6-8 oz. portions of protein. Meat, chicken, fish and eggs are good sources. Include 1 tbsp. portions of good fats like olive, coconut and flaxseed oils. Most people can lose 2 pounds a week consistently with this diet.
3. Improve your sleep duration and quality. Since your body does most of its healing during sleep, make sure you get at least 8 hours of restful sleep at night, in a room with no ambient light.
The main exercise to try for disc bulging:
Cobra pose. Lie on your stomach on a firm surface (not a bed). Legs together. Raise up your torso on your elbows, like the Sphinx of Egypt. Do not bend neck down; look straight ahead. Hold for 20 seconds; come down and rest for 20 seconds, repeat. Do six times twice a day. As is gets easier and at least after a week, try raising your body with elbows extended, hold for 10 seconds.
This exercise causes the lumbar vertebrae to press the rear half of the discs which may promote resorption of the disc bulge. Watch my YouTube video on this and other disc bulge reducing exercises.
Use a combination of an ice pack and hot pack the first 3 days after the onset of your back pain (20 minutes every two hours), then use an infrared lamp plus TENS unit (20 minutes twice a day or as needed) thereafter.
The items below are what I personally recommend to my patients who have manageable lumbar disc bulging. I am a big believer in home therapy, and these are some of the equipment that I find helpful.
Home Therapy Devices for Low Back Pain Worth Trying:
The PosturePump Elliptical Back Rocker – I’ve used this for years on patients, and use one myself for preventive care. This is a simple, solidly constructed device you place under your lower back, and then pump up with a hand pump. The specially angled air bladders push up and spread apart the lumbar vertebrae, causing a bulging disc to gravitate inwards. Use twice a day for ten minutes each. Watch this video to the the PosturePump in action!
The Back Bubble Spinal Decompression Device – This looks simple as well, but does a great job of making spinal stretching comfortable. Notice the oversized air cushion to keep you stable and comfortable. Hang it using a special attachment, step into it and bend your knees allowing the weight of your legs to stretch your lower back. You can also do the reverse, with you legs pointing up to the ceiling while lying on your back on the floor; in this position your torso weight stretches your low back. Watch this video to see the Back Bubble in action.
Teeter HangUps Inversion Table – This table has been around for 20 years now and has gone through multiple improvements. You stand against it and secure your ankles, and when you lie down and slowly raise your hands, it inverts you, all the way to 180 degrees. The force of gravity stretches your mid and lower back, relieving pressure from discs and facet joints. This is a strong spinal stretching device, but not for everyone. If you get dizzy easily when you get up from lying down, this may not be for you. Watch the Teeter HangUp Inversion Table in action!
Far Infrared Heat Lamp – Forget wimpy hot water bottles, this heat lamp uses far infrared light to heat deep into the spine. Infrared light heat not only increases circulation and oxygenation to tissues, it enhances tissue regeneration by exciting mitochondria in cells, which are the energy producing centers of the cell. Lie down on you stomach on a comfortable and firm surface (not your bed), and place the head of the lamp about 9″ from your exposed spine. Set timer for 20 minutes. I recommend you get this if you plan to do any kind of spinal decompression therapy at home, whether its the PosturePump Elliptical Back Rocker, Back Bubble, or Teeter HangUps because sometimes you’ll get sore after the therapy. The heat lamp will knock that soreness back down in just a few minutes.
In Summary: If you are told you have a “disc bulge,” don’t assume you need surgery just yet. In fact, the chances are very good you do not need to get spinal surgery. Check with your doctor and other qualified specialist to see if therapeutic exercises and lifestyle modification are appropriate for your particular case.
For more detailed, step-by-step guidance on permanently resolving chronic muscle and joint pain, visit
The information contained in this email and on www.PainandInjuryDoctor.com is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as a medical directive. It is provided as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dan Perez, D.C. Every person is unique, and individual cases of pain are therefore unique. Dr. Perez encourages readers of PainandInjuryDoctor.com to use available sources of information to help them make a more educated and informed decision regarding their health, in partnership with one or more qualified health care professionals.
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