Lumbar Disc Bulge

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Someone wrote me asking about a lumbar herniation or bulge. I decided to answer that message in blog format so I can share this info with everyone.

Here’s a basic anatomy lesson on the spine.

Think of a disc like a chocolate candy. It’s got a chocolate coating then a gooey center. When the chocolate coating wears away, tears, ruptures or breaks it allows the gooey center to push backwards onto a nerve. Ow! Lumbar bulges are particularly frustrating because of the pressure of everything above the bulge pressing down due to gravity. What you’re dealing with is a tear, rupture or overly stretched annulus. The nucleus then pushes out, extrudes and generally causes mayhem and makes you wish you walked on all fours again and didn’t fight gravity.

So the annulus is the chocolatey shell, the nucleus is the gooey center. We can talk surgery, chiropractic, massage til we’re blue in the face but I’ll give you the brief run down of how you help a bulge. You decompress then you backbend.

Decompress means you’re taking the pressure off. Think about unloading a ton of bricks from your truck. Hey, the shocks stretch out. Long term that’s good for your shocks and good for your lumbar discs which perform some of the same function anatomically. After you’ve decompressed you backbend. When you backbend keep in mind that slouching forward then sitting up is a backbend. Slow, gentle, timed, breathing, maybe only for 5 minutes on a foam roll or ma roller is backbending.


Why backbend? Well the disc causes problems when it bulges usually to the rear. This happens due to spine anatomy and the fact that most of our lives we spend our time leaning forward. If you put all the bricks in the back of the truck is it going to bother the front shocks? Bodies aren’t that different mechanically. You essentially spend your life stretching and pushing the gooey center back. When it finally tears or breaks you’re a in a world of pain.

So why backbend? Temporarily it’s uncomfortable. It actually can irritate in the short term because well, you’ve already got inflammation and irritation there and you’re pushing on it. Long term, over the course of a lifetime it takes the pressure off the back of the chocolate shell and opens up the front of the disc. Guess what happens when you backbend? You push the gooey center forward! You maintain spine balance and have good shocks for a lifetime.

So, the general answer to back pain is to backbend. Bad posture leads to problems muscularly and to deeper structures like discs. If you already have a bulge or herniation you push the disc forward and guess what happens? It reabsorbs, doesn’t put pressure on a nerve, lessens irritation and inflammation and then, what pain? I’m better.

Let me give you another example so you understand what we’re dealing with. Let’s say you backbend like crazy and rupture a disc to the front. Guess what happens? Usually nothing. Why? Because there’s no gooey center pressing on a nerve. The nerve is posterior and you pushed the bulge out into the front. Isn’t anatomy fun?

Always consult your doctor, surgeon, for medical advice. I’m just a massage therapist providing some information. My choice to decompress and backbend my spine is yoga. I’ve done Bikram yoga for 8 years. What does it do? It decompresses my spine, backbends me and in addition forces blood and circulation around those tough spots so they can heal.

Take your time, go slow, breathe, decompress and backbend. It’s a recipe for health.