Bulging disc is a condition where the discs between your vertebrae tend to bulge outwards. When the outer fibrous region of your disc weakens, it causes a bulging disc. If a bulging disc is left untreated for a long time, it can lead to the problem of disc tears, which is known as a herniated disc.
Causes for a bulging disc
The primary reason behind the problem of a bulging disc is that of disc degeneration. Degeneration refers to the gradual wear and tear of your body’s discs. With age, the water content in your spinal discs tends to go down. As a result, your spinal discs start to lose flexibility. At such times, even a minor strain or small twist can make you prone to ruptures or tears.
Lifting heavy objects can lead to the problem of a bulging disc as well. It occurs when you are not using your leg and thigh muscles, but the muscles of your back while lifting heavy objects.
Age is one of the risk factors behind the problem of bulging discs. With age, the water content in your discs tends to go down, and because of this, your discs become inflexible and brittle. As a result of gravity, the weakened cartilage tends to bulge towards your spinal cavity. Smoking cigarettes also put you at risk. Smoking leads to a weakening of your cartilage, thus causing your discs to bulge. In such instances, you will need the right treatment for a bulging disc.
People who have a family history of spinal problems are at a higher risk of developing this condition. Injuries caused by accidents during physical exercises and workouts, weightlifting, car accidents, slipping on the pavement or poor movements can also lead to a bulging disc.
Poor lifestyle choices also contribute to a bulging disc. Lack of physical exercises and weight gain, accompanied by a poor diet puts you at risk of several problems, including a bulging disc.
Poor posture, such as when your neck is forward and shoulders are slouching, can result in muscle imbalances and this can increase your chances of developing a bulging disc.
In all such instances, if you develop this condition, you need to get the right treatment on time, before the situation worsens.
Points to note before you start with your treatment for a bulging disc
Bulging disc is characterized by symptoms like pain and numbness. Typically, numbness and pain are experienced in a particular region of your spine. This tends to vary from case to case. You may also experience weakness and tingling. Bulging disc is accompanied by certain other symptoms such as muscle spasms or cramping.
A bulging disc may occur in the lower or upper part of your back. If it the upper part of your back, that is, the cervical area hurts, then your neck, arms, shoulders, and hands will be affected. In case your bulging disc occurs in the lower part of the body, you will experience symptoms like pain, weakness, numbness in your hips, legs, buttocks, and feet.
To diagnose a bulging disc, you may have to undergo imaging tests like X-rays to rule out other illnesses and conditions. A doctor may also recommend a CT scan. Your doctor may conduct MRI scans to identify the location of the bulging disc. These scans will also help doctors identify the affected nerves as well. A myelogram can be useful in detecting any pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
Treatment options for a bulging disc
As a part of the treatment process for a bulging disc, you will most likely need to take rest, and your doctor may also prescribe some medications. You may also be asked to take up light exercise. Hot and cold compress are also recommended to deal with the pain and other symptoms associated with a bulging disc. You may also have to bring about some changes to your lifestyle to keep this problem at bay.
Physical therapy is one of the treatment options for a bulging disc. It involves exercises that strengthen your back muscles. Physical therapy exercises tend to include activities that make your muscles flexible. You can try out stretching exercises and aerobic exercises too. Your physical therapist may recommend walks or riding a bicycle as a part of the treatment process for a bulging disc. Massage therapy may help relieve the pain associated with this condition. The medical professional may also use electrical muscle stimulation to cope with the symptoms of a bulging disc.
You can opt for over-the-counter medications to reduce the pain associated with this problem. These may include naproxen or ibuprofen. Your doctor may also prescribe muscle relaxants to deal with muscle spasms.
You may need epidural injections when other treatments and management options for a bulging disc such as pain relievers, rest or physical therapy do not provide much relief. You also have the option to opt for surgery if none of these treatments help with the symptoms of bulging disc.