Explaining a bulging disc for patients seeking relief

When a bulging disc develops in the neck or the back, it can potentially cause a number of symptoms — or no symptoms at all. In fact, many people who experience bulging discs never know that they have the condition. However, if a bulging disc comes into contact with the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root in the spinal column, a number of symptoms can develop that could require professional treatment. By learning more about how a bulging disc develops and what the treatment options are, you can make a more confident decision about your care.

How a bulging disc develops

The discs in our spine cushion the vertebrae, absorbing the shock of everyday movement. Each disc is composed of two main sections:

  • Annulus fibrosus — the tough outer wall of the disc that gives it strength and its shape
  • Nucleus pulposus —the inner, gel-like disc material that gives the disc its flexibility

A disc is said to be bulging when the disc wall extends beyond its normal boundaries in the spinal column. There are many causes for this, but it is often related to the natural aging process. Over time the discs lose water and protein content, making them less elastic and less able to withstand the pressure they are being placed under everyday.

Possible treatment options

In the event that a bulging disc in the neck or back comes into contact with a spinal nerve, treatment might be required. Often, the symptoms of a bulging disc can be managed with a course of conservative techniques that are recommended by a doctor. The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, hot/cold compresses and low-impact exercises are particularly common.

If conservative treatment fails to deliver long-term relief and surgery becomes an option, there is a range of options to consider. At Laser Spine Institute, our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive spine surgery that is an outpatient alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures.

Contact us to learn more and for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.