A bulging or herniated disk occurs when the outer covering of the cartilage between the spinal vertebrae tears. Consequently, the jelly-like nucleus inside the disk gets pushed to the weaker side and causes the disk to bulge and put pressure on spinal nerves. This can cause severe pain and discomfort. Most bulging disks occur in the L5 or lower lumbar area which is toward the bottom of the spine, where it curves. Treatment for a bulging L5 disk usually includes a combination of rest, immobilization, ice, heat, medication and exercise.
Things You'll Need
- Ice pack
- Back brace
- Heating pad
Treating Your Bulging L5 Disc
Stop all physical activity or working out immediately. During this time, wear a back brace when you need to be mobile. Take two ibuprofen pills every 4 to 6 hours throughout the day.
Put ice inside an ice pack or towel and place it beneath your lower back at the center of the pain source. Keep the ice there for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day.
Once the initial inflammation has subside, use a heating pad on your lower back several times per day.
Once you start using heat, perform the following exercise: Lie on your back with your knees propped up and both feet on the floor. Slowly press your lower back against the floor and hold that position for 2 to 5 seconds. Relax, then repeat 10 total repetitions.
While still lying on your back, grab both knees and slowly pull them toward your chest. Hold that position for 2 to 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat this movement 10 times.
Tips & Warnings
- Use ice during the first 48 hours after the initial onset of pain. Ice causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels) which controls pain and inflammation by limiting the flow of blood and lymph to the L5 disk area. Once your initial inflammation is under control, heat will promote blood flow to your lower back, bringing oxygen and the nutrients (i.e. vitamin C) that are necessary for healing. Massage can also increase blood flow to your L5 disk as can certain stretching and strength-building exercises. In addition to the two exercises listed above, you can also pull one leg toward your chest at a time to stretch your lower back muscles. Squeezing your buttocks also builds strength in your gluteus maximus area. It is important to build muscles in both the lower back and adjacent areas. Building strength in your back will increase the stability in your spine and relieve pressure from you L5 disk.
- Never apply ice directly against your back or exceed the 20-minute time period. This can cause frostbite. When exercising, stick to the exercises and movements that do not increase pain in your lower back. Also, you should never bend forward and twist simultaneous when you have a bulging disc injury. This can exacerbate your condition.
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