What is a bulging disc?

If you have been experiencing painful symptoms such as numbness, tingling or muscle weakness, you might have a bulging disc. Bulging discs are common and in most cases symptoms can be relieved with conservative treatment options.

Individual bones that are stacked on top of each other, called vertebrae, add structure to the spine. Spinal discs, located in between each pair of vertebrae, help to absorb shock on the spine and aid in flexibility and movement. The discs each have a thick outer layer and a soft gel-like inner layer.

A bulging disc happens when the soft inner layer begins to protrude from the outer layer of the disc. The bulge can put pressure on surrounding nerves or nerve roots causing a pinched nerve and painful symptoms.

What causes a bulging disc?

As the body ages, everyday wear and tear can takes its toll on the spine. The aging process can cause the discs to weaken and bulge. Over time, the water content of the discs decrease making them brittle, less flexible and thinner. This increases the chances of developing a bulging disc. In addition to the aging process, there are several other activities that can cause or contribute to a bulging disc including:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Injury or trauma
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Extended sitting or inactivity
  • Bad posture
  • Repetitive motion
  • Contact sports
  • Excess alcohol consumption

All of these factors can weaken or stress the spinal discs and potentially cause a bulging disc.

What are conservative treatment options for a bulging disc?

For most people, conservative treatment options can help to relieve the symptoms caused by a bulging disc. Conservative treatment options for a bulging disc typically include a combination of the following:

  • Rest
  • Heat and ice therapy
  • Over-the-counter pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Exercise and stretching
  • Chiropractic care

Your physician may also recommend a nerve block or steroid injections to help control your pain so you can focus on physical therapy and strengthening the muscles that support the spine. In some cases, conservative treatment options are not successful and the bulging disc continues to cause painful symptoms. If left untreated, a bulging disc and pinched nerve can lead to permanent nerve damage.

If conservative treatment has failed to treat your bulging disc, contact Laser Spine Institute to see if you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery to treat your pain. The minimally invasive spine surgeries performed at Laser Spine Institute are safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^

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