What is a Bulging Disc?
The human spine is made up of vertebrae and in-between each is a jelly disc (called intervertebral discs) that provide cushioning and acts as a ligament connecting the lower vertebra to the upper one. The outside of each disc is fibrous and holds a inner jelly like substance. A Bulging disc occurs when the outer fibrous portion becomes weaker (usually due to aging) and pressure from the inside causes the outer area to bulge out. Often confused with herniated discs, where the outer portion rips and the insides spill out in the portion of the tear, bulging discs usually affects a larger portion or the entire disc and do not include a tear.
Symptoms of Bulging Disc
Bulging discs are usually asymptomatic but can produce mild to semi sever symptoms. Areas affected are determined by the location of the bulge which occur most commonly in the lower (lumbar) back or neck (cervical). Most bulges occur in the lumbar spine, and is felt in the glutes, leg, calf, or foot. If it occurs in your cervical spine, pain is located in the arm or shoulder and can make holding things difficult.
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Causes of Bulging Disc
Bulging discs are usually considered a normal part of aging.
Treatment for Bulging Disc
Much like with herniations, treatment of a bulging disc will depend on the severity. Often times, the pain caused goes away with rest and time. Medications such as pain killers, muscle relaxers, or cortisone injections can be prescribed if pain persists. Other forms of treatment include:
- Spinal Decompression Therapy
- Heat therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Exercise program from a licensed professional
- Weight loss
If there is no relief after treatment, surgery may be recommended. This is not usually the case but the most common surgery is a discectomy were a portion of the disc is removed to release pressure.
Prevention of Bulging Disc
Generally, prevention of a bulging disc is like that for other spinal issues:
- Back Strengthening exercises
- Maintain good posture
- Avoid sitting too much
- Learn to lift properly
- Avoid Smoking