What is a bulging disc?

A bulging disc occurs when a disc of cartilage between the bones of the spine, or vertebrae, protrudes beyond the limits of where it normally exists. Bulging discs commonly affect the lower back, or lumbar spinal region, although they can sometimes occur in other areas of the spine, such as the middle back (thoracic region) and neck (cervical region).

Each disc is made up of a strong outer layer of cartilage with a softer, gel-like material constituting the center. These discs act as cushions to allow for flexibility and maximum shock absorption during the daily rigors your body goes through. Activities such as walking, bending forward, lifting and even sitting all put stress on your spine, especially if they are improperly executed.

A physician performing a magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) can typically determine the presence of a bulging disc by seeking a small bubble in the cartilage.

How serious is a bulging disc?

A bulging disc is a fairly common condition and, in many cases, won’t cause any pain. Over time, the discs in your back age, and they become drier and weaker. This weakening makes them more susceptible to damage. While age is the primary reason for a bulging disc, other causes can include aggravating a previous back injury, being overweight and incorrectly lifting heavy items.

Although some people have bulging discs and are free of symptoms, the seriousness of the condition may increase if the bulge exerts pressure on a nerve root in the spinal canal. As a result, the area around the nerve will inflame and produce feelings of pain in the neck or back. Depending on the location of the inflamed nerve, symptoms like pain, numbness, weakness, spasms and tingling may also manifest in the arms and legs.


If you are experiencing bulging disc pain and have not found relief in chiropractic or other conservative treatments, contact Laser Spine Institute. Learn more about our advanced minimally invasive procedures that can offer relief from neck and back pain with a shorter recovery period than traditional open back surgery.

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