Herniated or bulging discs between vertebrae compress nerve roots
When one of the spinals discs that cushions the vertebrae weakens or is injured, there can be a number of conditions that result, including herniated or bulging discs. These conditions may cause nerve compression that leads to pain, tingling, burning and loss of mobility.
While the terms herniated and bulging discs are sometimes used interchangeably, there are key differences between the two conditions and it can be helpful to understand them if you believe one may be the source of your neck or back pain.
How they are different
Spinal discs cushion and protect the vertebrae. Herniated and bulging discs can result from age-related degeneration or injury to the spine. Other factors like poor lifting technique, improper posture, smoking and being overweight or obese can also contribute.
In these conditions, the outer wall of the spinal disc weakens, allowing the gel-like inner fluid to push the wall out beyond the circumference of the vertebrae.
A herniated disc occurs when the outer wall ruptures, allowing inner material to push into the spinal canal. With a bulging disc, the outer wall stays intact while the nucleus pushes the outer layer into the spaces around the vertebrae. Nerve roots exiting the spinal column through the vertebrae are vulnerable to compression by displaced disc material, which can result in debilitating pain.
Treatment options for disc conditions in the vertebral column
If you have a herniated or bulging disc, your doctor will usually first recommend a nonsurgical course of treatment that may include:
- Over-the-counter medication
- Physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory steroid injections
- Chiropractic care
- Hot and cold therapy to reduce swelling and pain
- Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or improving posture, if needed
Not every patient will respond well to conservative treatments. If your doctor has informed you that surgery may be your best option, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery can treat painful spine conditions while offering our patients no lengthy recovery and less risk of complication compared to traditional open neck or back procedures.^
Our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures are performed using a small incision on an outpatient basis, which means patients can avoid the several nights of hospitalization often associated with traditional open neck or back surgery.