Conditions & Treatments - Herniated Lumbar Disc/Bulging Disc


In your low back you have five vertebrae (bones) that are connected and make up your lumbar spine. In between the vertebrae there is a structure called a disc which is made up of fibrous tissue (annulus fibrosus) on the outside and a gel like material (nucleus pulposus) on the inside. These discs function like shock absorbers for your spine and help absorb forces. If you perform activities such as lifting, bending or twisting you could put additional stresses on these discs and cause them to herniate/bulge. When a disc is herniated the gel like material located in the inner portion of the disc pushes out through the weakest part of the outer portion of the disc. If this occurs, the herniated/bulging disc can push up on a nerve that branches out from the spinal cord and cause pain in the low back (Please refer to the illustration of the red disc bulging at L4-5 which is impinging on a nerve). In addition, an individual could also experience pain that radiates down the leg, numbness/tingling of the low back/leg and weakness of the lower extremity muscles. The discs which are most commonly herniated in the lumbar spine are located in the regions of L4-5 & L5-S1. A MRI can be taken of the lumbar spine to confirm the presence of a herniated disc. Please note that the presence of a herniated disc doesn’t necessarily mean that an individual will experience symptoms. However, should you have symptoms and you experience loss of bowel/bladder control, then seek medical attention immediately as this may require surgical intervention.


Herniated Lumbar Disc Treatment Options for a P.T.

Hot Packs/Ice Packs

Postural Training/Functional Training (see video 59)

ROM/Gentle Stretching

· Strengthening/Stabilization (see videos Z14 & 37)

Lumbar Traction

Massage/Soft Tissue Mobilization 


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Last revised: January 17, 2008
by Chai Rasavong, MPT


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