Bulging disc symptoms and treatment
Bulging discs in the spine are a very common occurrence caused by the weakening or thinning of the annulus fibrosis, the outer ring of a disc that gives each disc its shape. When the annulus fibrosis becomes weakened, the fluid that makes up the center of the disc, the nucleus pulposus, forces the disc to literally bulge out of its intended space in between the vertebrae.
Bulging discs are a common effect of aging, as the discs tend to weaken over time. However, the risk of developing bulging discs can be increased by a number of other factors, such as obesity, injury, bad posture and inactivity.
Bulging disc symptoms
Bulging discs themselves are generally not a cause of discomfort. For most people, issues arise when the bulging disc starts to push on a nerve root or the spinal cord itself. This can cause symptoms such as:
- Tingling or numbness
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of fine motor skills
The location of these symptoms largely depends on the location of the bulging disc, since the nerves in different parts of the spine serve various parts of the body. For example, a bulging disc in the neck can affect the hands, arms and shoulders, while one in the lower back can cause symptoms in the legs, buttocks and feet.
Conservative treatment for bulging discs
In most cases, patients seeking relief from symptoms of a bulging disc will not need to undergo surgery. There are several conservative treatment options available to help manage the symptoms of bulging discs, including:
- Physical therapy
- Heat and/or ice application
- Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication
- Epidural steroid (cortisone) injections
- Weight loss and other lifestyle changes
Surgical treatment for bulging discs
When a patient’s symptoms do not improve with conservative treatment, his or her physician may recommend surgery to treat the bulging disc itself. While traditional open spine surgery generally entails hospitalization, a long recovery period and large incisions, there are several minimally invasive procedures that are effective alternatives.
If you suffer from bulging disc symptoms despite conservative treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about our minimally invasive procedures or to schedule an initial consultation.