Bulging disc in the back

A bulging disc in the back can occur anywhere along the spinal column. This condition is caused by weakening of the wall of a spinal disc, which allows a bulge to develop. Symptoms related to a bulging disc can be disruptive to your life, affecting your job, relationships and being able to do the things you enjoy. Learning more about this condition can help you become more involved in your treatment, offering you a better chance of returning to the quality of life you deserve.

What causes a bulging disc in the back?

In order to understand why a disc may develop a bulge, it helps to understand what spinal discs are and what functions they perform. The discs are small pads of cartilage between the vertebrae in the spinal column that absorb the pressure from everyday movement, allowing the spine the bend, twist and flex.

As we age, that daily wear and tear impacts our spinal column, especially moving parts like the joints and discs. When the discs degenerate, or weaken, they can lose their shape and develop bulges. Not only can bulges develop due to this degeneration, they can also develop when discs are damaged by trauma or injury suffered in a car accident or in a bad fall. It is possible for a bulging disc to eventually develop into a herniated disc or ruptured disc which is when the outer layer tears, pushing inner material into the spinal column.

When a disc bulges out of its normal place in the spinal column it can narrow the nerve passageways, putting pressure on spinal nerves and resulting in debilitating symptoms. Here are some of the typical symptoms patients with a pinched nerve experience:

  • Local and pain
  • Burning pain that shoots along the nerve pathway
  • Tingling and numbness in the extremities
  • Muscle weakness

The location of traveling symptoms depends on where in the spine the bulging disc is affecting nerves. For example, a bulging disc causing nerve compression in the lumbar (lower) spine can affect the buttocks, hips and legs. While bulging discs in the cervical (upper) spine cause symptoms in the neck, shoulders and arms.

Treating a bulging disc in the back

Upon diagnosing a bulging disc as the source of painful symptoms, your doctor may recommend treatments like rest, exercise, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and epidural steroid injections. If, after a full course of these conservative bulging disc treatments are attempted, you still have back pain or pain becomes worse, traditional open back surgery may be recommended by your physician.

If you are concerned about the potential side effects and risks of traditional disc surgery, you may want to consider the minimally invasive, outpatient surgery offered by Laser Spine Institute. Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more about our faster recovery times and lower risks than traditional open back surgery, as well as our patient satisfaction score of 96.^

We offer a no-cost MRI review* to help you find out if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.

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