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We’ve heard the terms disk bulge, disk irritation, disk herniation and sciatica before but what does it all mean? In today’s world a disk bulge is more common than you think; we see it daily at City Osteopathy. Its a leading cause of acute low back pain, and chronic low back pain. Here’s a simple explanation of what a disk bulge is and how you can alter your day to day activities to reduce your chronic lower back pain.


Think anatomy

The lumbar spine is made up of five vertebrae, each vertebra has two kinds of joints, the facet joints (similar to your knuckles) and a rigid disk joint. The disk is structured like a stale jam donut, the hard ‘pastry’ on the outside and the ‘jam’ on the inside. The outer ⅓ fibres of the ‘pastry’ are pain sensitive and over time can become degenerated causing the ‘jam’ to poke into it causing pressure on the nerve roots from the spinal cord. This can result in local muscle spasm in your lower back and pain referral into the front of your thigh or down the back of the legs depending where the disk bulge is.

How can you diagnose this?

Osteopaths can diagnose this a few ways. Classic features include pain and symptoms that are felt bending forward, coughing, sneezing and activating your pelvic floor. We then will proceed with orthopedic testing to provoke similar pain; then lastly a MRI can be prescribed to solidify the diagnosis.  


How can an Osteopath help?

Osteopaths use gentle safe manipulative techniques that help decompress disks and relieve guarding muscle spasm. It’s important to realise that given that you rest, stretch and avoid provoking behaviours such as sitting for long periods of time that a disk bulge will resorb and settle after 6-8 weeks.


What should I do to avoid a disk bulge from happening again?

Once you get a disk bulge your chances of irritating it again have increased. It’s important to modify your day to day activities, being sure to keep a straight back when picking up something from the ground and not sitting for long periods of time. Clinical pilates is a great way to strengthen your core and spinal stability; this further reduces your risk of reaggravating or getting another disk bulge.


We do Clinical Pilates at City Osteopathy!

Our Queen street clinic in Melbourne CBD boasts a clinical pilates studio that’s equipped with two reformer apparatus’ and all the trimmings. All our instructors have an Osteopathic background providing systematic and specific exercises for you. Book in today!  


Dr Shane Heslop

City Osteopathy