The vertebrae in the spinal column are separated by spongy discs made of collagen tissues.
They also have a jellylike center called the nucleus. These discs serve as shock absorbers when the spine is flexed. They support the vertebrae and allow for bending.
When these intervertebral discs become too compressed, they bulge out of the vertebrae. The condition is called bulging disc, which can lead to pain and immobility.
Although both conditions affect the discs in the spinal canal, and individuals experiencing either can report similar symptoms, bulging discs and herniated discs have a key difference.
With bulging discs, the disc sags and bulges outward. A herniated disc, on the other hand, means that there is a tear in the inner nucleus which causes a leak into the spinal canal.
This means that bulging disc only affects the outer, tougher cartilage of the disc, while the herniated disc affects the center as well. People with the latter condition may also experience more severe pain compared to the former, because the nerves in the spinal cord may be involved.
People who have bulging discs may experience the following symptoms:
Back pain that is noticeably worse when the individual moves or walks
Back muscles experience spasms
Numbness or general weakness in the legs and feet
Reduced mobility in the lower extremities
Reduced bowel and bladder control
Pain along the sciatic nerve or sciatica
Reduced overall coordination
Aging – The jellylike nucleus in the disc tends to wear away as people age.
Physical Activity – Heavy lifting, repetitive forceful motions, repetitive bending and twisting, and other activities that put a lot of stress on the back may eventually wear out the nucleus of spinal discs and lead to this condition.
Trauma – Injuries sustained during an accident may damage and weaken the intervertebral discs. This may lead to bulging disc.
Posture – Poor posture when sitting, standing, driving, or working for sustained periods of time can eventually lead to weakness and bulging of the discs.
Core Stability – Poor core stability means more stress is placed on the back, which can lead to bulging disc over time.
Since in most of the cases of bulging discs there is a progressive and gradual presentation of symptoms over time, individuals can get their condition diagnosed and treated early. This involves conservative treatment options such as the following:
Medications – anti-inflammatory drugs can be recommended, especially during flare-ups of the symptoms. These reduce swelling and relieve pain.
Steroid Injections – If there is significant nerve pain, doctors may also recommend steroid injections to manage the inflammation and pain.
Doctors may also recommend a surgical option called lumbar decompression if the bulging disc has progressed enough to also cause lumbar stenosis. This procedure decompresses the spinal canal which effectively reduces pressure on the nerve and relieves pain.
While the traditional treatment options mentioned above may be effective in managing the pain in the short-term, they do not necessarily address the underlying cause of the bulging disc.
At Superior Physical Therapy, we do not only look at the site of the pain. We recognize that the body is made up of several interconnected moving parts and that an issue with one of these parts may lead to pain and other symptoms in another part.
Bulging discs, for example, may be caused by weakness elsewhere in the abdominal muscles.
Using this Superior Method we are able to correctly identify the problem and find more lasting solutions. We also offer the following treatment options:
A series of targeted exercises can concentrate the symptoms in the middle line of the body and eventually alleviate pain. This offers long-term solutions to pain and weakness in the back.
Using monofilament needles, trigger points or local contractures in the muscles are stimulated. This brings relief in a safe and virtually painless way.
Heat packs relax muscles and promote the healing of damaged tissues. Cold packs reduce swelling. Both treatments change circulation to alleviate pain. We may recommend both or just one of these therapies.
Using mechanical vibrations that penetrate deep into muscle tissue, circulation and lymphatic flow are improved. Tissue regeneration is also promoted. The lactic acid cycle is also improved, eliminating one common cause of pain.
Find out which of these treatment options are the best fit for you when you get into a quick and easy discovery call with our own Dr. Andrew Gorecki.