A bulging disc occurs when the tough exterior portion of a disc extends beyond its normal position between two vertebrae. Bulging discs are fairly common occurrences and are considered a normal part of the aging process of the spine, but can also occur in individuals who have sustained a back or neck injury. While some bulges cause no obvious symptoms, others can produce intense pain, especially if the bulging disc portion presses against a major nerve root.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A BULGING DISC?
A bulging disc is often confused with a herniated disc, which is typically a result of a bulging disc in which the tough outer layer of the disc cracks and some of the softer, inner disc material protrudes.
The symptoms of a bulging disc depend largely on the circumstances and severity of the condition. The bulge in the outer wall of the disc may create pain and other symptoms if it presses against a nerve root that extends from the spinal cord between the vertebrae. When a bulging disc causes a pinched nerve, a radicular pain is caused – a form of pain that may affect any part of the body, depending on which body part that nerve root serves.
Other symptoms of a bulging disc pressing against your spinal cord include muscle weakness, numbness, tingling in legs or arms, increased reflexes in legs or arms that cause spastic movement, or changes in bladder or bowel function. A bulging disc in your neck may cause symptoms like pain during neck movement, deep pain near or over your shoulder blades or radiating pain that runs down your arms.
Pain from a bulging disc may start slowly and get worse over time or during certain activities, but loss of muscle strength is often an early warning sign.
WHAT IS THE RIGHT TREATMENT FOR ME?
Our spine surgeons encourage those with a bulging disc to undergo conservative treatments once pain or other troubling symptoms begin. This gives the disc a chance to restore itself to its former position and shape while allowing the pinched nerves to heal. Treatments range from physical therapy to pain-relieving medications, including strengthening exercises or cortisone shots. Patients are typically required to investigate more conservative options first and turn to surgery only after these options have failed to relieve pain.
An artificial disc replacement is a minimally invasive solution to a severe bulging disc, performed in a two-hour outpatient setting. This treatment allows for a quicker, less painful recovery period spent in the comfort of your own home. There’s no need to suffer through progressively worsening back pain and loss of muscle function.