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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How long should a disc bulge take to fix?

    I tore my L5 disc and now have a bulge about 3 months ago. Initially I was in extreme pain, however that only took about 2 weeks to subside. Now I can function again, but over the past 2 months I haven't been able to get any improvement. I am doing pilates, am sitting at my desk as my physio recommended, exercises and so on. But it's a small ache in my lower back, with radiating pains down my legs on and off and I just can't seem to get rid of it and back to normal.
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    low force chiropractor for 27 years experienced in SOT AK diversified activator proficient and Neural organizaiton techniqu proficient. seminars given in perth auckland and sydney … View Profile

    If the symptoms are bilateral meaning down both legs it is best to find a Sacro Occipital technique chiropractor to manage the category three involvment. Manual adjusting is not recommended and or over stretching. It can take up to 10 months for a disc protrusion to heal. certain supplements can help especially Blackmores Bio disc and some metagenics and bio ceutical products recommened by a chiropractor or naturopath. It is important you dont lift or cycle It is best to rest and  laying flat and walking and swimming are your best excercise as present as  pilates may aggravate the psoas muscle  if it is not balanced. It will take time but it is not impossible.

  • Dr Andrew Lim


    Andrew has a Masters in Chiropractic and his interest in Sports Chiropractic has led him to treat many athletes from junior to elite levels in … View Profile

    This is a hard one to answer as it depends on the location injury of the disc. Sometimes pain can only be relieved to a certain extent, temporarily or not at all. In cases of disc injury, you can have 'annular' tears which essentially means the outer walls of the disc have been damaged. Sometimes what can happen is the body tries to heal the tear, subsequently growing nerves into the tear. This process itself can make the disc sensitive to pain.

    There are a number of therapies other than physiotherapy that may help regulate and decrease your back pain incuding chiropractic, osteopathy, dry needling/acupuncture and/or massage. All of these are worth a try.

    Hope this helps, please feel free to contact me if you need further assistance.

  • Sandra McFaul


    Do you suffer from chronic lower back pain or neck pain? Based in SYDNEY, Sandra is 1 of ONLY 15 Physiotherapists in Australia with ADVANCED … View Profile

    I would recommend seeing a McKenzie Method trained physio.  They are experts in back pain.  There will be some exercises you need to avoid and there will be some that will relieve your pain.  Not all exercises are helpful 

    GOOGLE McKenzie Method to find out more.

    PS. Dip MDT McKenzie physio's have more training than Cred MDT.

  • 1




    Andrew Clark


    Principal Physiotherapist at Clinical Physiotherapy, St Ives. Clinical, Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist B.Sp.Ex.Sc.,M.Physiotherapy.Cert.Spinal.Man.Tpy.APAM View Profile

    First of all low back pain is a complicated problem and there are many factors that can contribute to ongoing pain.

    Firstly, disc bulges actually rarely give patients low back pain. A true disc bulge (i.e a bulge that is compressing a nerve root and compromising the nerve signal) will give you one of, some of , or all of 1) pain, 2)pins and needles, 3)numbness, and 4) in severe cases weakness, in a dermatomal distribution (google "lower limb dermatomes" to find out the distribution of the lumbar and sacral nerves.) if you have generalised radiating leg pain, but mostly low back pain, it is probably unlikley that it is a disc that is causing your pain. There is also a significant percentage of the population that have disc bulges but NO PAIN. A large, significant study conducted in 2014 showed 50% of those aged over 40 had a disc bulge with no symptoms. So if you have had a scan that shows a disc bulge, don't worry! It is normal! 

    Secondly, please disregard any advice to sit properly, avoid certain positions, lay flat on your back and try passive treatments (where you lie down and someone else does the work). There is simply no evidence to support this. In fact there is good evidence to say that avoidance of certain positions and movements can actually lead to worsening symptoms. Passive, hands on therapy from a physio, osteo or chiro can be really helpful initially but the effectivness decreases to almost zero after 8 weeks.

    Thirdly, there is no 1 single treatment that will work for you. Everyone is different. The best advice I can give you is to slowly, gradually increase your level of activity and also gradually reintroduce movements that you may have avoided. e.g if bending forward is painful then you need someone to show you graded exercises to slowly get your back used to doing this again. You can do that for any movement. If your flexibility and movement is back to 100% then you may just be weak in the positions that give you pain. if you body is weak in certain position, it will avoid it as a protective mechanism. It will get you to avoid it by giving you pain!

    Last of all, stay positive and dont let the pain dictate what you do. Pain is a complicated beast and is poorly correlated with tissue damage so don't be worred that you are doing more damage if you get some pain. The best definition we have of pain is that it is "the human body's perception of threat". If your body "perceives" a movement to be a threat, it will give you pain to stop you from doing it.

    if you're having trouble please seek help from a practitioner who believes in ACTIVE, tailored rehabilitation. 

    Good luck!

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