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What is a Bulging Disc?

Jun 24, 2016

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Posted In : Decompression


Bulging discs are quite a common ailment in both young adults and elderly persons. Some bulging discs may present few or next to no symptoms while others can manifest through muscle weakness, pain or numbness in the spine, or other parts of the body. Generally they are not very serious and are definitely no reason to panic. Here’s why:

What is it?

Spinal discs act as a cushion between the vertebrae. Their structure has been compared to a jelly doughnut– a hard outer layer surrounding a soft, gel-filled core. Although most bulging discs are the result of aging, damage to a disc can cause the core of the disc to swell outside its normally occupied space. Generally, symptoms do not occur unless the bulge impinges upon the spinal nerve which causes the pain and numbness.

What causes it?

Other than degenerative disc disease, which is the most common culprit of bulging discs, there are more causes that anyone could expose him/herself to everyday. Two of these causes, that have become more relevant in the last decade or so, are poor posture and inactivity. The intensive use of screens encourages poor posture and the increase of desk jobs literally pays people to be nearly inactive.  To prevent bulging discs from these factors check out ways to stay active at work. Those tips will also help fight obesity which is another condition that leads to bulging discs. A more common cause of bulging discs is strain or injury. Be sure to lift with your legs and have brace support if necessary.

How is it diagnosed?

Doctors start with a physical and a complete history of your symptoms: when they started, where they occurred, for how long, at what intensity, etc. As previously mentioned, bulging discs that present symptoms usually signify that the disc is exerting pressure on the spinal column or nerve. This is what a doctor would be most concerned about ascertaining.

To assess your condition, your doctor may order any or a combination of tests, including an X-ray, MRI or CT Scan. An X-ray won’t identify a bulging disc; however, it will help your doctor understand the overall condition of your back and if it’s likely a disc has been damaged. The MRI scan is the most common way to diagnose a suspected bulging disc. A CT Scan is not always necessary but may offer additional information in some cases.

How is it treated?

Depending on the severity or placement of the bulging disc, extensive treatment may not be necessary. Most doctors will advise waiting a few eeks or months to see if the symptoms subside on their own, as this is likely to happen. If this is not the case, then they may prescribe pain medication and physical therapy. If symptoms persist and continue to get worse, surgery may be meeded. Surgical procedures vary but most are as un-intrusive as possible. At Advantage Spine and Disc, we offer a surgical alternative; a unique protocol that has saved many from disc survey. We combine spinal decompression therapy with class IV laser therapy, helping those with bulged or herniated discs get lasting releif, without the risks associated with surgery. Set up an appointment today!

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