Bulging disc in the lower back — overview

Bulging discs often develop in the lower back because of the flexibility of the lumbar (lower) region of the spine combined with the amount of weight it supports. Years of everyday bending and twisting, along with age-related changes causing the discs to dry out and lose elasticity, can lead to a lumbar disc bulging out of its normal place in the spinal column.

Although they aren’t always painful, a bulging disc in the lower back can lead to symptoms when it causes compression of a spinal nerve. Bulging disc symptoms can be very disruptive to everyday life, leading to missed time with family, days off the job and nights of disrupted sleep. Learning more about this condition is a great first step on your journey toward getting back to the life you’ve been missing if you are living with a bulging disc.

Bulging discs in the lower back and sciatica

Sciatica is a term referring to symptoms caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, commonly by a bulging disc in the lower back. This nerve supplies much of the lower body with sensory and motor signals, which is why interference with this nerve can be so debilitating.

Symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Shooting or burning pain into the lower body
  • Tingling sensations or numbness in the feet, buttocks and lower legs.
  • Cramping and muscle spasms in the legs
  • Muscle weakness

A bulging disc in the lower back can compress other nerves as well, leading to similar symptoms or localized lower back pain. If you experience loss of bladder or bowel control, seek immediate medical assistance as it could be a sign of cauda equina syndrome, a rare but serious condition.

Treatment for a bulging disc

Many patients are able to find lasting relief by following their doctor’s instructions to rest, take over-the-counter medications, engage in regular exercise, lose weight and improve posture. In some cases physical therapy and epidural steroid injections may be prescribed. Surgery can also be recommended, but it is usually seen as a last-resort treatment due to the risks and difficulties involved with traditional open back procedures.

If you ever consider surgery for a bulging disc in your lower back, reach out to Laser Spine Institute to learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery. By using a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques, our highly-skilled surgeons are able to treat a bulging disc on an outpatient basis. The result is less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open spine surgery.^

Learn more by contacting our team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.

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