Cause Behind Bulged Disc

Let’s find why does spinal disc bulges?
What are the cause behind bulged disc?
Does slip disc relate to the accident or injury only?
You are not alone with these questions…..

When you first come to know that one of your disc is bulging and compressing some of the nerves. The first question which comes to your mind is- Why my disc bulged or herniated?

And then starts a chain of endless questions, which you keep on asking yourself.

I never met an accident.

Never ever I fell down or slipped anywhere.

Then how and why my disc bulge?

In my clinical practices, I have come across this question, thousands of time.

Everybody wants to know about the exact cause of their problem.

The questions, related to injury and accident starts from the doctor chambers only.

Everywhere- from neurologist to orthopaedic doctor, while taking the history. They asked same question about accident or injury.

Because of these repetitive questions from doctors, forces a patient to think about the “injury” and “accident”. They start relating with some “events” like-

Yes, I lifted a gas cylinder, my pain started from that day.

Oh, now I can recall, when I pushed my bed on other day. Pain might have started from that day.

List keeps on adding…..

But opposite to this- in most of the cases more than 80% I found no history of accident and injury.

Seriously, we need to know about the cause behind disc bulge. And for that we will talk about a disc too, before we will find the root cause of the disc bulge. Because this is the only right way to look at the things.

More importantly, when you understand the cause, you can find the solution too.

cause behind bulged disc

Disc Herniation is about Disc alone

This is the first lesson to learn!

When we talk about something in human body, we cannot talk about something “individual”.

Human body is more subjective than objective. When we talk about some structure like- spinal disc, we need to understand about- the related structures and components of human body. Without that we cannot develop a comprehensive and complete approach.

When you say, spinal disc-

As a clinician, many things come to my mind and these are-

  • The bones above and below the disc.
  • End plates – the cartilages on the bone.
  • Blood supply.
  • Ligaments- ligamentum flavum, anterior and posterior longitudinal ligament.
  • Muscles…..etc.

These all are important to consider. Because when a disc herniates, either all of these involve in that process or most of them involve in this.

Because without muscles, there cannot be extra pressure on the discs.

And when there is adequate blood supply to the disc- disc cannot degenerate.

In case of healthy endplates– nothing bad can happen to the disc.

In nutshell- a disc bulge is an event, where different causes come together and lead to the problem.

So, when a disc herniates, it is not about the disc alone.

This is the first lesson, we all need to learn. Because while repairing the disc, we need to consider all these structures, one by one.

Disc bulge is not a ALL OF A SUDDEN thing

The second concept you need to know is the “time”.

Slip disc is neither about- that day when you picked something nor about that “mishap” after which it took six months to develop the painful condition.

You need to learn about two things-

  1. Human body struggles a lot (to repair the condition) before something bad happens to it.
  2. Everything in human body is a chain of reactions (both mechanical and physiological).

Even bacterial and viral infections are never “recent” and “all of a sudden”. Same applies to a bulged disc too.

The event, mishap or the day you relate with your problem is, just a thing which you can recall and connect with your pain.

This brings satisfaction, but not answer for the problem.

We will take example of L5-S1 slip disc here, to understand the process of slip disc-

As a patient you will consider the problem, when pain due to nerve compression starts radiating in your leg. In simple words, you visit the doctor or surgeon after that pain only.

When asked about the history of the pain- you tell

I have pain since 7 days, 15 days or so….“.

Any injury or jerk? With this question, you start connecting the dots. And when you connect the dots, you start blaming something….

And in this quest of finding answer, you forget about the muscular stiffness, which was there since months.

You even ignore the uneasiness while waking up in morning.

Because for you what matters is- radiation of sciatica pain in your leg.

Honestly, we need to observe all the past events, right from start. It cannot be one day or two days story.

What are Cause Behind Bulged Disc

While understanding, the causes behind bulged disc, now we will look at the different causes, which lead the disc to herniation.

The conditions or causes we are going to discuss in this page might not apply to every patient. And you might be affected with more than one cause, which lead your disc to damage.

To observe the exact cause behind bulged disc, we need to connect the dots properly.

This is possible in medical science through a proper history taking by a good physician. Surgeons never take history because they never bother to save your disc. What matters to a surgeon is – “booking a patient for surgery”.

This is the reason, surgeons cook the different stories to convince you for the surgery.

Here we will discuss the different causes one by one.

For your reference, here is the list, for the same.

  1. Muscular Stiffness
  2. Bad Posture
  3. Improper Exercises
  4. Your Diet

Let’s discuss everything one by one in detail…

Muscular Stiffness and Bulged Disc

This is the most important and most common cause behind disc bulge.

33 bones and discs in between these bones, make the spine. To ensure the mobility of human body, these bones are joined together through muscles.

There are plenty of muscles which bind these vertebrae (bones of spine) together.

Muscles and yes ligaments too are involved in this process. Shape of the spine is most important factor as a cause of bulged disc.


When these muscles are strained more than their capacity. These (muscles) alter the shape of the spine. With alteration of the spine shape- pressure on the vertebral bodies increases. This pressure from the bones transfers to the disc and this is how spinal disc bulges.

This muscular stiffness can be because of the injury too (But rarely).

When it comes to injury. People who have stiffness in muscles are more exposed to injuries. This is a well known fact. Flexible objects are not that prone to injuries, as are the stiffened objects.

So injury or no injury muscular stiffness is a basic root cause for spinal disc diseases.

Bad Posture and Bulged Disc

While driving a car. It is important that tyres and axis of car should be aligned properly. Otherwise this misalignment of the body will lead to certain problems with tyres and movement of car.

Same applies to the human body.

Spine is axis/axial of the machine.

Four limbs are tyres. When axis has some problems.

This problem reflects on the four limbs very quickly. Radiation of the pain in upper limbs (in case of Cervical Disc Problem) and Sciatica (in lumbar disc problems) shows same condition.

Correct posture for healthy spine

Costly chairs and seatings can tempt everybody for slouching. This slouching is the worst posture for the whole spine. Besides this second bad thing in case of cervical disc problems is- using mobile and laptops. Desktops in slouching postures are also not good.

Muscles work better when these are relaxed.

In natural postures muscles are relaxed.

When we sit in wrong posture, muscles stiffen. Then same story repeats. Spine loses its natural shape and this leads to the problem with intervertebral spaces. And due to extra pressure- disc bulges and leads to the nerve compression.

Improper Exercises

If you are obese and have visited recently for consultation with some surgeon about your disc bulge treatment. Your surgeon might have accused you for being obese and for not doing exercise.

Don’t feel bad for yourself.

Gym is the most common cause behind the slip disc among young people.

Not gym exactly, this is the wrong way to “exercise is gym” rather which is the cause behind the problem with the disc.

Many people just enter the gym and without any warm up they start heavy weight exercises.

They hurt their backs in gyms.

Can exercise cause slip disc

So this is basically, wrong method, which leads you to the painful condition. And movement you are aware that you have slip disc, it is very late.

Any sport or exercise should not be performed without proper warmup. Because without warm up muscles stiffen and lead to problems with spinal discs like bulged and herniated disc.

Diet Which Can Cause Bulged Disc

Sounds weird!

But yes.

Ayurveda thinks so.

The kind of food we eat, shows similar impacts on our bodies. Right now in a fear of cardiac diseases everybody is taking food free from fats.

Because everybody thinks that this is the fat which is responsible for all the problems.

But it is not so.

In case of bulged disc we studied well the food pattern of patients and most of them were taking food devoid of fats.

Diet responsible for bulged disc

When we avoid proper amount of fats in diet- this leads to extraordinary stiffness in the body.

This is fat which ensures the “flexibility” and “suppleness” in the body. Lack of same, leads to stiffness and result is same.


Disc Bulged without Accident or Injury

This sounds a hype creating statement, but it is true.

Injuries are not the sole cause behind bulged disc.

Disc bulge or bulging disc are our own mistakes. Most of the times while discussing with our doctors about spinal disc problems. We relate the condition to an injury.

The injury we had forgotten- most of the times.

But when it comes to diagnosing the things. We just pressurise our memory and dig down something which sounds like an accident.

What are the causes behind slip disc

My question is different. Many people met an accident. But why everybody does not suffer from disc bulge?

BECAUSE….many things matter. Not alone the accident. In my previous experience of 12 years with herniated discs and bulged discs I found following reasons behind bulged disc-

These are the few details about the cause behind bulged disc. Once we have proper knowledge about cause behind bulged disc, we can plan the things in a better way.

Treatment for Bulged Disc is nothing more than the reversal of cause. This is the reason when we are sure about cause behind bulged disc we plan the treatment accordingly and give better results in this category.