What is a bulging disc?
What exactly is going on when you have a bulging disc. Spinal discs act as shock absorbers in between each vertebrae of the spine. They provide a soft cushioning effect that absorbs the stress and pressure that the spine gets. The disc has a soft, spongy nucleus, which is encapsulated by the annulus, that is a protective outer layer. As you get older, this layer can get worn down and compressed in people who may not be very active or who have poor nutrition.
The disc will finally begin to bulge out from between the vertebrae. The pain you feel is from the nerves whose job it is to make sure that you feel everything. Nerves transmit sensation–both pleasurable and painful–from the extremities back to the central nervous system, connected to the brain.
When this network of nerves gets some abnormal pressure, you will definitely feel it in the form of shooting pain, numbness and tingling, or even muscle weakness when the nerve is being compressed.
Cause and Treatments of Bulging Lumbar Disc
The lumbar disc connects two vertebrae while allowing them some motion. It also serves as a cushion or shock absorber. The lumbar disc consists of several outer layers made of tough fibrous material called the annulus. Its centre, the nucleus, has a gel-like consistency. With normal aging, the disc may lose fluid and become dehydrated, causing compression and deterioration of the annulus. When this outer layer is worn out, the nucleus bulges out, forming a bulging lumbar disc what people refer to as bulging disks.
When this happens, the bulging lumbar disc loses its ability to smoothly hold together the two vertebrae that it connects, causing instability as well as irritation of nerves, that both lead to intense pain.
A severe case of bulging lumbar disc results to inflammation of the involved nerve root that directly causes the pain the sufferer feels down one leg, a condition known as sciatica. With direct pressure on the nerve, the leg or foot becomes weak.
In a bulging lumbar disc, there is a definite displacement of a disc’s nucleus where a fragment of it pushes out of a tear in the annulus. Usually, a bulging lumbar disc occurs with the start of disc degeneration.
Initially, conservative treatment is used to treat a bulging lumbar disc. Such treatment usually starts with a few days to weeks of rest and maintenance of moderate (painless) level of activities. The doctor may also prescribe NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil, Motrin, Celebrex and others. Sometimes, the doctor will also prescribe epidural steroid injections in order to provide medication to the specific level of the bulging lumbar disc.
Another form of conservative treatment is physical therapy, which is performed under the supervision of a qualified physical therapist who will conduct an in-depth assessment and, along with the doctor’s diagnosis, will perform different types of modalities that have been proven to be effective in treating bulging lumbar discs.
If the abovementioned non-invasive treatments are not effective in treating the bulging lumbar disc and the patient continues to suffer severe pain and greater muscle weakness, the surgery becomes necessary. Surgical treatment may be in the form of microlaminotomy, which is used for large herniations, or a percutaneous discectomy, if the disc bulge is small and the disc fragment is not extruded completely.
The majority (about 90 percent) of bulging lumbar disc patients does not require surgical treatment and gets well with only conservative forms of treatment, although, about 5 percent of patients with degenerated lumbar discs will continue to experience severe lumbar spine pain, which may affect normal functioning. This incidence is often not directly caused by surgery but the exact causes are unclear.
If the surgery is successful, about 85 percent of patients will be able to go back to their normal functions after six weeks. There may be permanent feeling of numbness in small areas of the affected leg but this is not debilitating.
Some people can live with bulging discs as the pain is not that tough. But other can experience such serious lower back pain that their lives are affected quite seriously. The good news is that the majority of bulging discs do not need surgery. There are several other methods that can be used successfully for treating the patients with bulging discs. Their purpose is relieving the pain and healing the area.
Rest is very important when it comes to the treatment of bulging discs. Some bed rest can help a lot in reducing the inflammation. Also, some anti-inflammatory medicines can help relieving the pain, as well as steroids injections.
Therapy is part of the treatment. Physical therapy is often prescribed to the people that have bulging discs. When you go and see your doctor, the first thing he or she will do is to evaluate your state of health and to see exactly what the problem is. After putting the diagnosis, they will establish the right therapy plan for your condition.
One of the physical therapy methods is called traction. The therapist will pull the vertebrae, letting the blood flow into the affected area. The blood circulation is very important, as it transports nutrients and minerals and all that is needing in order to promote healing. Massage is also a good therapy option for bulging disc. Its role is similar, letting the blood flow into the disc and help it heal itself.
Some bulging disks exercises or bulging discs treatments are also involved in the physical therapy of the bulging disc. This method starts with some stretching exercises, then it can be completed with some strengthening exercises meant to make the muscles on your back much stronger. Sometimes these simple exercises result in bulging disks pain relief.
Other therapies are also available for bulging disc. Ice therapy, heat therapy, ultrasound therapy, electrical stimulation can also be used in the treatment of these patients. Physical therapy is often complemented with muscle relaxants and pain relievers that can help in the process. In order to decide which method of treatment is the best for you, you must consult with your doctor, as some ways may be more efficient than others according to the state of your health.
Bulging disc and spinal decompression or herniated disc may be the result of degenerative disc disease, or an injury to the spine causing the spongy, gelatinous nucleus of the disc to bulge out of the protective annulus layer. A bulging disc and spinal compression may occur over time as a result of a sedentary lifestyle, or the degeneration of the discs that can come with advanced age.
The herniated disc can impinge on the sciatic nerve causing shooting pain or numbness and tingling in the legs. A bulging disc might never cause pain or be detected unless it begins to cause friction against a nerve. If a herniated disc occurs in the neck area of the cervical spine, the pain will radiate to the shoulders and arms.
What is a possible treatment for bulging disc ?
Medical doctors that practice conventional medicine may give medications to relax the muscles and relieve the pain. They might offer cortisone injections and epidurals, but these are solutions that won’t last and that mask the symptoms rather than treating the cause of the bulging disc.
For more information- Bulging Disc