What causes a bulging disc?
Bulging discs occur when a disc starts to break down, usually due to aging and life-long wear and tear.
Other things can be a factor, including:
- poor posture and sedentary lifestyle
- trauma, including falls and motor vehicle accidents
What symptoms does a bulging disc cause?
A bulging disc cause different symptoms depending on where it occurs and how much impingement it causes. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- dull ache or pain in the neck or back, especially when standing or walking
- pain, numbness or weakness that radiates into the buttocks and legs
- pain, numbness or weakness that radiates into the shoulders and arms
- bowel or bladder incontinence in extreme cases when those nerves are affected
Symptoms caused by a bulging dic tends to become worse with physical activity and resolve, at least in part, with rest. When bulging discs occur in the lower (lumbar) spine, painful symptoms may be relieved by bending slightly forward at the waist, which can relieve the pressure caused by spurs.
Bulging discs can cause symptoms similar to other conditions, including herniated discs, bone infections, bone spurs, tumors and fractures. Having an in-depth physical exam is critical to ensuring you get the proper treatment for your condition. Digital imaging tests like x-rays or CT scans can show bone spurs and are typically ordered when more general symptoms are present to confirm the diagnosis.
How is a bulging disc treated?
Dr. Jenkins will consider a patient’s history, overall condition, and the severity and duration of their symptoms in order to come up with a unique treatment strategy for each patient.
This can include:
- Over-the-counter or prescription painkillers
- Muscle relaxants if the disc compression is causing muscle spasms
- Cortisone injections to reduce swelling and inflammation
- Hot or cold therapy to reduce swelling and increase circulation for better healing
- Stretching exercises to improve flexibility and reduce pressure
- Physical therapy for guided exercises and other approaches to minimize pain
Occasionally, surgery is necessary. Surgery usually involves removal of the portion of the disc that’s bulging, but in some cases, the entire disc must be removed.
Dr. Jenkins understands the full spectrum of herniated discs and knows to whom the patient should be referred for where they are in their symptoms or recovery phase.