The Nature and Symptoms of a Bulging Disc
Spines are not one solid entity; instead they are composed of individual bones otherwise known as vertebrae. These bones protect the spinal cord and allow us to twist, turn, and bend. In between each vertebra is a disk. Discs are a soft material that cushion and protect the vertebrae. It may help to think of them as little separators that fit perfectly between each vertebra in your spine. The disc itself is composed of a soft inner layer of jelly, the nucleus pulposus, surrounded by a hard layer of outer cartilage.
A bulging disc occurs when the inner layer of the disc pushes against the outer layer of the disc causing it to shift position and bulge out of the crevice in which it fits. Unlike with a herniated disc, there is no rupture of the outer layer of the disc. In some cases there may be no pain associated with the bulging disc; however some common symptoms include: pain while walking, shoulder, back, leg, and arm pain, numbness or weakness in legs and arms
Bulging discs cause two different types of injuries: pinched nerves and disc pain. A pinched nerve is caused when the disc bulge is pinching a spinal nerve. This produces what is known as radicular pain, pain that radiates to other parts of the body. Disc pain refers to the actual disc itself being in pain, also known as axial pain.
Often the type of damage one suffers from a bulging disc depends on what part of the spine is affected. When the bulging disc impinges on the lower back spinal nerves the hips, buttocks, legs and feet feel pain and may be impaired. When the upper back is affected the pain often radiates all the way from the neck to the ends of the fingers. However, it should be noted that 90% of all bulging discs occur in the lower back.
Treatment of a Bulging Disc
While bulging discs are a common result of old age it is possible for a disc bulge to either worsen or to eventually rupture. Bulging discs may also cause chronic disc pain. In the case of a severely painful bulging disc, a discetomy, to remove the disc, might be necessary. Another option is to use spinal decompression to rehydrate the disc and bring it back into alignment. Less serious injuries may only require pain medication, physical therapy or a chiropractor; however this can be quite costly as well. In addition, disc injuries are invisible on an x-ray, which means that a CT or MRI scan is needed, adding to the cost.
Causes of a Bulging Disc
Sudden, severe, or constant strain on the back may lead to bulging discs. An individual who is employed in a job that requires a lot of bending, stooping, lifting heavy objects, and also being on their feet and sitting for extended periods of time may very well develop a bulging disc. In addition, any sudden impact from a slip and fall or an auto injury may also cause a bulging disc.
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