In this post, you’ll learn about the definition, causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of a bulging disc. But to thoroughly understand a bulging disc, it is important to learn some basic anatomy and physiology of the spine – specifically the disc which is the area affected by the condition.
Your spine is made up of 24 vertebrae. Between each vertebra are structures called intervertebral discs or spinal discs. A spinal disc has two main parts. A fibrous exterior (annulus fibrosis) made of a several layers and a soft gel-like interior (nucleus pulposus). Each disc functions to cushion the spine, absorb shock, and maintain spacing between the vertebrae.
Now that you have a basic understanding of anatomy and physiology, let’s now talk about a bulging disc in more detail.
What Is A Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc occurs when the inner layers of the annulus fibrosis begin to deteriorate allowing the soft gel-like material inside the spinal disc to bulge out to the outer layers of the annulus fibrosis. This is not like a herniated disc where the soft gel-like material completely leaks out of the outer material. Imagine stepping on a balloon without popping it – that is how a bulging disc looks
What Are The Causes Of A Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc can result from several different causes. Any of the following scenarios may cause a bulging disc:
Spine trauma or blow
The most common situations are car accidents and sports-related injuries.
Most bulging discs are a result of repetitive movements done improperly over a period of time rather than one specific injury this micro trauma causes early degeneration changes in the spine and specifically the disc.
As you age your spine starts to degenerate causing the spinal disc, which functions as a cushion, to degenerate or dry out making it more susceptible to injury.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc causes no symptoms unless it leads to irritation or compression to nearby or adjacent areas which can result to localized pain. The location of pain caused by a bulging disc varies depending on the affected region of the spine.
Pain in the neck, upper back, shoulders, and/or arms.
Pain in the middle back, ribs or torso
Pain in the lower back, groin, hips, buttocks and/or legs
How Is It Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of a bulging disc involves a combination of the following:
Careful physical examination
What Is The Treatment For Bulging Disc?
Most bulging discs do not present with symptoms unless there is active inflammation in the disc. A program of progressive resistance exercises utilizing the MedX Medical Spinal Testing and Rehabilitation equipment is usually sufficient to treat a bulging disc. Another effective treatment is non-surgical spinal decompression. At the Center for Total Back Care, we offer this procedure using the finest technology called VAX-D. VAX-D, which stands for Vertebral Axial Decompression, is a nonsurgical treatment for bulging, herniated or degenerative discs. Videos of both the MedX and VAX-D treatments can be found below.