The most common cause of a bulging disc is aging. With age, the shock-absorbing discs between the vertebrae lose water content, making them stiff, flatter, and more damage prone. With desiccation, a disc loses its natural elastic recoil. Any minor trauma increases pressure of the disc’s central core, stressing and stretching the outer fibrous ring without returning it to its exact shape. When this cycle is repeated over an extended period of time, a balloon, or bulging disc, results. If a disc bulge ruptures and allows the inner contents, or nucleus pulposus, of the disc to seep out, the injury is called a herniated disc or ruptured disc. Bulging discs can begin in a person’s 20s and are very common in people who are in their 30s and 40s.
While bulging discs are caused by degenerative changes as we age, there are other contributing factors which hasten this condition, such as:
- Severe trauma, such as a car accident
- Improper lifting techniques
- A family history of disc disease
- Working in an occupation that requires repetitive lifting, bending, standing, and driving
- Participation in contact sports
- Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
A bulging disc can occur in the neck (cervical region), lower back (lumbar region), or less commonly, in the mid back (thoracic spine). Bulging discs generally remain asymptomatic unless they compress a spinal nerve rootlet or the spinal cord itself. Symptoms typically start at the location of the damaged disc and travel along affected nerves. For example, a lumbar bulging disc can begin as an aching in the lower back and develop into shooting, burning pains that travel down the sciatic nerve to the buttocks, thighs, and feet. This condition is also known as sciatica.
One of the minimally invasive spinal surgical procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute is percutaneous endoscopic discectomy. This procedure may be used to treat a bulging disc and thereby relieve the pain caused by nerve compression. There is no substitute for experience. Our expert surgeons, assisted by our outstanding staff, have performed this procedure thousands of times, with predictable, excellent results. Please read our previous patient testimonials to understand how this procedure can start you on the path to a better life.
If you have questions about bulging disc causes and whether our innovative procedures are appropriate for your neck or back condition, please contact us for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.