Bulging discs occur when the spongy discs of the spinal column become compressed. This could put pressure on the spine as well as nerve roots, causing pain and movement issues. The most common cause of bulging discs is age-related deterioration, and the symptoms usually worsen over time. To help relax the spinal column and relieve pain, your doctor may recommend several short- to long-term treatment options for you.
This article focuses on the symptoms and causes of bulging discs. It also explores possible treatments that could ease the pain. If you are experiencing any pain or believe you have a bulging disc, we invite you to contact Dr. Rappard's practice in the City of Los Angeles.
A Brief Overview of a Bulging Disc
A bulging disc arises when the spongy discs separating the bones in the spinal cord become compressed causing them to bulge out. The spine is made up of several interconnected bones known as the vertebrae. The vertebrae allow the back to flex and move while supporting the spine.
A spinal disk is a soft tissue layer that lies between every vertebra. The disks protect the vertebrae from pressing against one another and facilitate movement between them. Additionally, they serve as shock absorbers to shield against any damage when moving.
Each disk has a sturdy outer layer and a gel core. With time, this gel could become stiff and end up losing its elasticity. The quantity of gel could also diminish over time, become squeezed, and bulge outwards. When the disc bulges out, it could be compressed or come into contact with a nerve, which leads to pain.
The majority of bulging discs occur at the base of the lumbar spine. Quite often the outermost surface of the disc disintegrates and ruptures, then a gel-like core is forced out via a gap in the disc's outer wall.
Symptoms of a Bulging Disc
Since there are countless reasons for back pain, it can sometimes be challenging to diagnose a bulging disc. However, if they appear at all, the signs of a bulging disc may vary from patient to patient. In certain scenarios, the pain a bulging disc causes might not be detected by the patient when it hasn't yet herniated.
Because of this, it is easy to dismiss a diagnosis of a bulging disc if it has not gotten bad enough to herniate. The symptoms can vary depending on where the bulging disc is located. The degree, severity, as well as location of the discomfort, can vary depending on whether it arises in the cervical spine, lumbar spine, or thoracic spine. The symptoms are frequently described by the location as detailed below:
Most patients with a bulging disc can experience discomfort in their lower back or lumbar spine. However, signs and symptoms of the lumbar bulging disc could manifest in different parts of the body, including the thighs, and lower spine. feet, and buttocks. The symptoms mentioned below are often used to describe the sensation experienced:
- Walking difficulties
The term "thoracic spine" refers to the upper and middle back regions. The most uncommon of the three is a bulging disc within the thoracic region. Similar to a bulging disc within the lumbar region, symptoms can sometimes be detected in parts of the body other than the back. The following are possible signs of a bulging disc in the thoracic region:
- Upper back pain
- Muscles spasms
- Pain that starts in the upper part of the back and progresses to the stomach or chest region
In essence, the neck region is the cervical spine. Like the preceding two regions, the hands, arms, neck, and head can all be impacted by a bulging disk within the cervical spine. How the bulging symptoms in the cervical disc region are expressed is very comparable to the bulging symptoms in the lumbar region. For instance, any sensations experienced in the impacted regions can be defined as including the following:
Causes and Risk Factors Associated with a Bulging Disc
- The likelihood of a bulging disc is increased in smokers and individuals who have lived sedentary lifestyles that involve little to no exercise
- The discs can get damaged over time if they are subjected to constant strain due to injury, strain, or excessive lifting
- Weak back muscles could hasten the condition and cause the disc to herniate unexpectedly
- While bulging discs develop gradually, trauma can cause herniated discs to happen quickly
- A bulging disc can be caused by poor posture, which entails improper body orientation while sleeping, standing, sitting, or exercising
- Activities or activities with high levels of contact also carry risks of a bulging disc
- Bulging discs can also occur in athletes who don't wear orthopedically supportive running shoes
- The discs may deteriorate as a result of actions that stress and strain the spine.
Additional risk factors are as follows:
- Taking part in some forms of physical activity, particularly if they include repeated motions
- Working in a job that requires you to lift heavy stuff
How is this Condition Diagnosed?
To fully and successfully diagnose a bulging disc condition, a comprehensive physical examination, including X-rays and, in certain situations, CT or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), are required. These assessment methods detect alterations in the disc's form and state.
Preventing Bulging Discs
It is not often possible to prevent a disc from bulging because the disk gel gradually deteriorates with time. Individuals can, nevertheless, undertake the following measures to keep a bulging disc from getting worse:
- Achieving or maintaining a healthy body weight that will ease pressure on your vertebrae
- Exercising regularly to fortify the muscles that surround the spinal column
- Stretching when seated for extended periods and remaining flexible
- Ensuring good posture to lessen spinal stress
Treating Bulging Discs
There are many non-surgical options for treating a bulging disc, many of which could be more effective for certain patients. Treatment is determined mainly by the duration of time the individual has been experiencing symptoms as well as the degree of the discomfort. Other factors to take into account include the patient's age and the kind of symptoms (including numbness or weakness).
For most patients, the symptoms of a bulging disc will gradually decline. Even though there are no set rules for addressing bulging discs, the two main objectives of any therapy are as follows:
- To alleviate pain, particularly leg discomfort, which could be quite acute and incapacitating
- To enable the patient to achieve a healthy level of daily activities
Medication along with physical therapy is frequently used as the first step in conservative therapy. Sometimes it might be advisable to limit your activities until the symptoms go away.
Treatments can comprise:
A physiotherapist might recommend postures and physical activities to alleviate the discomfort caused by bulging discs by releasing the strain on the nerves. Exercise plays a vital role in back pain recovery throughout all cases.
Ibuprofen is a common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat bulging discs. For much more serious pain, prescribed drugs could be necessary. Sometimes, if you have muscle spasms, a muscle relaxant can be beneficial.
For low back discomfort that has persisted for a minimum of a month, spinal manipulation could be fairly beneficial. Low-back pain responds best to treatment.
Patients with persistent lower back pain can usually find some relief from massage in the short term.
Here, the back pain is addressed using sound waves, or small vibrations generated to calm body tissues.
Heat or Cold
Cold packs can initially assist in reducing pain and swelling. Switch to mild heat after several days for relief.
Cortisone shots (epidural steroid shots) can also offer longer-term assistance since the medication is administered into the region around the nerves. Steroids taken orally can assist to lessen inflammation and swelling.
Treatment for the spreading nerve pain frequently linked to a bulging disc could be aided by medications mainly created to manage seizures.
Spinal Decompression Treatment
Intermittent spinal pressure, which doesn't require surgery, can lessen the discomfort of bulging discs. Pain alleviation could last for several months.
Braces and Other Supporting Gadgets
These gadgets can aid with pain relief by offering stability and compression.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators are frequently used during the treatment of bulging discs. Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation are examples of more refined therapies.
Minimal Bed Rest
A prolonged period of inactivity might result in stiff joints as well as weak muscles, which can make recovery more difficult. Instead of lying in bed all day, get up and move around after thirty minutes of rest. Minimize activities that make the pain worse by taking a little stroll or doing some light chores.
The extent of the patient's condition can affect the treatment regimen, which varies from case to case. Dr. George Rappard's team will analyze the extent of the bulging discs and develop a specific treatment strategy to help restore patients to living normal and pain-free lives.
There are additional alternative and complementary therapies that could assist reduce the discomfort caused by a bulging disc, such as:
Even though the outcomes are usually minor, acupuncture seems to relieve acute neck and back discomfort in certain patients.
This is a Japanese pain-relieving technique that employs particular hand movements.
Yoga, which combines physical exercise, breathing techniques, and meditation, could frequently help some patients function better and reduce persistent back pain.
This technique uses warmed needles or glowing sticks crafted from mugwort or "Moxa" that are placed near the "treatment points" to heat particular areas of a patient's body.
In cases when significant pain persists after twelve weeks of non-surgical therapy and no improvement is obtained, surgery could be a possibility. Thankfully, only a few people suffering from a bulging disc require surgery. Surgery, nevertheless, might be required when the patient has:
- Acute pain that appears to make it challenging to continue engaging in a decent amount of daily exercise
- Neurological symptoms that develop with time, such as increasing numbness or limb weakness
Home Care Therapies
At home, over-the-counter medications could help relieve mild disc-related discomfort. A patient might also benefit and increase mobility from physical therapy as well as exercises that help build strength around muscles surrounding the disc
A physician or physiotherapist can assist in helping a person choose safe workouts depending on where the bulging disc occurs. They might recommend low-impact exercises like walking or yoga.
Another remedy that patients can attempt at home to reduce pain is stretching, particularly for the neck, legs, and back. To ease the strain on the vertebrae, a patient might also have to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight. Additionally, a bulging disk could be made more tolerable by bracing the spine using safety gear. One may, for example, make sure their office chair has enough lumbar support.
When to Seek Medical Help From a Specialist
Regular exercise, good posture, as well as a healthy diet, can frequently reduce back discomfort without the need for medical attention. However, if the back pain persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as issues with bowel and bladder control, a patient should seek medical advice. People who experience acute back pain after physical activity or a traumatic event might also have to see a specialist.
Find a Bulging Disc Treatment Specialist Near Me
At Dr. Rappard's practice, we understand how challenging back pain management can be. If you suspect you have a bulging disc, we can assist you before the condition progresses to the extent of herniation. We provide accessible, inventive, and individualized treatment methodologies to assist in the diagnosis and management of any type of back pain. Having years of experience in the field of treating back pain, we take great pride in becoming our clients' lifelong partners in enhancing their back health.
You can visit our facility today in the City of Los Angeles or call us today at 424-777-7463 if you're having any spinal problems or would like to schedule a consultation regarding your general back health.