How are your shock absorbers performing these days?
No, we’re not referring to the mechanical devices in your car that help keep it riding smoothly on a bumpy highway. We’re talking about the shock absorbers in your spine, otherwise known as discs.
They’re the rubbery pads firmly embedded between each set of two vertebrae, where they cushion your bones and keep them from rubbing against each other. The discs also protect your spinal cord, and they help make it possible to move and twist your back.
When these discs become worn down, you may feel a sharp pain in your spine. Then again, you may not feel any pain. That’s because the disc hasn’t reached a level of severity until it actually herniates (ruptures).
How Do I Know if I Have a Bulging Disc?
A painless bulging disc is difficult to identify until the condition becomes more severe. When a bulging disc does cause discomfort, here’s why…
Discs have a hard outer casing and a soft, jelly-like center. When the disc moves or slips out of its normal position, the soft center material pushes outward toward the weakest point of the outer shell.
Most often, the disc protrudes between its two adjacent vertebrae. And the longer this condition progresses, the worse its inevitable symptoms become. These symptoms include moderate to severe pain, numbness, muscle spasms, and/or a mild tingling, which are caused by the bulging disc applying pressure on nearby nerves.
Where This Can Occur in the Spine
Most cases of a bulging disc occur in the lumbar (lower back) area, creating pain in the buttocks, lower spine, thighs, or feet. This can make walking difficult and requires an immediate medical evaluation, because it could be a sign of a potentially life-threatening condition.
A bulging disc in the cervical spine (upper spinal area, in the neck) produces pain or tingling in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, or fingers. Meanwhile, upper back pain that radiates toward the chest or stomach could indicate a mid-spine bulging disc.
When a bulging disc affects the sciatic nerve, it will trigger sensations down one leg, but not the other. A bulging disc can also cause incontinence by compressing the nerves that control your bladder – another symptom that requires urgent medical assistance.
Causes and Treatment of Bulging Discs
Because a bulging disc is most often caused by age-related deterioration of the spine – and the fact that damage typically starts slowly and gradually progresses – it is classified as a degenerative spine condition. But if left untreated, a bulging disc can lead to a herniated disc, which is much more painful.
Both bulging and herniated discs are often treated with conservative measures, such as pain medication and physical therapy. Of course, if these methods do not improve your symptoms, spinal surgery is an option.
The most common procedure for a herniated disc is a discectomy, in which a part or a whole disc is removed. After this removal is spinal fusion, in which the two vertebrae that flanked the disc are fused together into a single bone.
Orthopedic Surgeons in Plano
Tarpon Orthopedics – your sports medicine, spine, and pain specialists in Texas – can diagnose a bulging disc and devise a treatment plan just for you.
Contact us today at (972) 596-1059 for more information or to schedule a consultation, or fill out our online form to request an appointment now. We look forward to helping you enjoy a more active, pain-free lifestyle.