Discs situated between the spinal vertebrae absorb shock and facilitate movement. Bulging discs, which typically surface in the lower back, occur when a weakened or deteriorated disc swells through a crevice in the spine, extending outside of its normal jurisdiction. This condition happens when a disc shifts out of its normal position, usually slowly and over a long period of time. As the disc moves, its inner, liquid-like nucleus begins to balloon toward the weakest point in its hard outer casing.
Although there is typically little or no pain associated with a bulging disc, the affected disc may eventually suffer a herniation — Meaning its inner nucleus may leak through the damaged shell and cause pain and further complications. Bulging discs may also place pressure on nearby nerves, leading to serious discomfort and, in some cases, severe and chronic pain.
Symptoms of bulging discs generally begin to emerge only when the disc sets other problems into motion. Here are some indicators of a protruding disc:
If you suspect you might be suffering from a bulging disc, take action before the disc ruptures and causes further damage to the body. The first step toward treating a bulging disc is identifying what led it to originally appear.
Bulging discs generally develop because of:
As we age, the discs in our spinal column become less structurally sound and their water content declines. These changes make discs vulnerable to bulges and other complications. Certain factors, such as a sedentary (non-active) lifestyle and smoking, may accelerate the corrosion of disc material.
Our vertebrae and discs deteriorate over the years due to our bodies’ natural aging process. When discs are strained or the distribution of weight around them changes, they may begin to protrude.
For the most part, herniated discs are associated with immediate injury, while bulging discs worsen slowly. However, an accident or sudden event can occasionally cause a long-term injury that disrupts the spinal system and eventually causes a bulging disc.
Sitting, standing or sleeping improperly can strain the neck and back, leading to a bulging disc. Good posture involves keeping your body aligned. While sitting, rest with your back straight and your shoulders back. Use a lumbar roll, pillow or towel to support your lower back and try to avoid remaining in one position for extended periods of time. Sleeping on your side (sometimes with a pillow between the knees for added support) generally yields positive results for a healthy spine.
If your job requires repetitive lifting, bending, standing and/or driving, you may be at risk for a bulging disc. Improperly carrying heavy objects may also result in a swollen disc. The safest way to pick up objects is to keep your back straight and use your leg muscles, instead of bending forward and relying upon your arms and back to raise significant weight.
Men and women who are overweight or obese, participate in contact sports or have a family history of disc disease need to be especially aware of the signs and symptoms of a bulging disc. Additionally, wearing shoes with no orthopedic support while running can place stress on the spine and increase your chances of developing a bulging disc.
Depending upon the underlying causes behind your condition and the extent of your symptoms, conservative treatment may be sufficient to regulate your bulging disc. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, professional massage, ice packs, heating pads, physical therapy and lifestyle changes can often reduce or completely eliminate disc-related pains.
Discs in sensitive locations or that appear on the brink of a herniation may necessitate Microspine surgery. These procedures use advanced techniques and state-of-the-art technology to remove and correct spinal difficulties. Unlike traditional open surgery, Microspine and minimally invasive surgery usually only requires minor recovery time and reduces the likelihood of scarring, trauma and blood loss.
After undergoing Microspine & minimally invasive surgery, patients are generally advised to implement a home exercise or low impact exercise such as aerobic swimming or restorative yoga program to strengthen muscles and avoid future back problems.
Finding solutions early in a bulging disc’s trajectory can prevent worsening pain and debilitating injury. Schedule an appointment with one of our spine experts today to begin treating your protruding disc, so that you can freely and painlessly pursue the things you love. We look forward to speaking with you!