How Serious Is a Bulging Disc in the Lumbar Region?

Bulging discs in the lumbar region are by far the most common type of bulging disc, and most heal on their own within six months as stated by the Laser Spine Institute. Only about 10 percent of cases produce severe, long-lasting pain that requires open-back surgery.

The location of this type of disc bulge often compresses the roots of spinal nerves, causing symptoms in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet. The bulge may also compress the sciatic nerve that runs down the lower back to the buttocks and the backs of the legs, causing a condition known as sciatica. When a physician diagnoses a patient with a lumbar bulging disc, common prescribed treatments include rest, anti-inflammatory medications, pain relievers and physical therapy, as listed by the Laser Spine Institute.

Individuals are more likely to experience a bulging disc in the lumbar region than in other parts of the back because it carries the bulk of a person's weight, becomes easily strained during heavy lifting and is more likely to experience direct trauma due to falls, car accidents and other events. The lumbar region also experiences increased wear, weakening the vertebrae as a person ages. Smokers, senior citizens, people with a history of back injuries and people who are overweight are more likely to experience a bulging disc in the lumbar region, according to the Laser Spine Institute.