A bulging disc is essentially a spinal disc which has moved from where it normally is, usually due to a weak spot. The discs in the spine provide a cushion between the spinal vertebrae, provide nerve protection, and are crucial to movement. If the bulging disc is not pressing on surrounding tissues, you could potentially have a bulging disc and not even know it. However, if the disc is pressing or pushing against a nerve, then pain—in some cases, extreme pain—is likely.
A bulging disc can result in:
- Pain and numbness down the legs and in the buttock region;
- Chronic headaches;
- Tingling or pain in the wrists, toes or fingers;
- Pain in the lower back, middle back, head, neck, arms or legs;
- Numbness and weakness in the area of the bulging disc, and
- Limited mobility due to muscle aches, weakness, tingling or throbbing pain.
Although most bulging discs occur in the area of the lower back, they can occur in the upper back as well. (About 90 percent of all bulging discs are in the lower back). The pain can radiate to the legs, fingers, head, hands, arms or feet, depending on the location of the disc. Males are much more likely to be diagnosed with a bulging disc than females.
Diagnosis of Bulging Discs
If a middle-aged group of Americans who have never complained of back pain were to have an MRI, about 38 percent would have a bulging disc. To get a good picture of a bulging disc, imagine your disc as a jelly donut. The “jelly” being pushed out by pressure is a soft, gelatinous inner layer, known as the nucleus pulposus. Bulging discs are most often diagnosed through the use of an MRI or CT scan, which are implemented when a patient has had 4-6 weeks of severe pain, and little or no results with conservative therapies.
Treatment of a Bulging Disc
Treatment for bulging discs often include:
- Steroidal injections
- Short-term prescription pain from opiate medications
The elderly are more likely to develop bulging discs, because spinal discs tend to become more brittle, losing lubricating fluid, elasticity and structure over the years. Surgical treatment is rarely necessary for a bulging disc, however can be a last option when nothing else has relieved the pain.
Staying active into older age can minimize loss of mobility, inflammation and injuries associated with a bulging disc. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can cause the pain of a bulging disc to worsen, particularly if you are overweight. Daily walks and exercises to strengthen the core can help prevent the pain of a bulging disc, as can weight-bearing exercises, water exercises, dancing, swimming and cycling.
Contact Our Pain Management Specialists
When your bulging disc is causing you so much pain that you find yourself missing out on life, Seattle Pain can help relieve your pain, and significantly improve your quality of life. Call Seattle Pain today at 253-944-1289 or complete a contact form today.