What is a bulging disc?
Spinal discs, located between the vertebrae in the spine, help to absorb shock and add flexibility to the spine. The discs are made up of water and protein and the tough outer layer encompasses the soft gel-like interior. If the tough outer layer becomes flattened, or the disc loses water content and elasticity, the disc can bulge out of the normal position between the vertebrae and into the spinal canal. This is referred to as a bulging disc.
What is a degenerative bulging disc?
A degenerative bulging disc is a bulging disc that is caused by age-related deterioration in the spine. Deterioration in the spine can be caused by:
- The natural aging process
- Everyday wear and tear on the spine
- Degenerative disc disease
- Repetitive motion
What are the symptoms of a degenerative bulging disc?
A degenerative bulging disc can cause localized pain. If the bulging disc compresses a nearby nerve root, the nerve root can become inflamed and unable to function properly. A compressed nerve will send pain signals along the nerve path, along with the following symptoms:
- Localized pain
- Radiating pain
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle spasms
- Pins-and-needles sensations
Depending on the location of the degenerative bulging disc, symptoms may also radiate or travel along the nerve path to other parts of the body. A bulging disc in the neck can cause symptoms that travel from the neck, to the shoulder, down the arm and into the hand and fingers. A bulging disc in the middle of the back can cause pain that travels to the rib cage, abdomen and stomach. A bulging disc in the lower back can cause pain in the lower back that travels to the hip, down the leg, to the foot and into the toes.
What are the treatment options for a degenerative bulging disc?
Surgery is not the first course of treatment for a degenerative bulging disc. A combination of conservative treatment options is the first course of treatment and should be maintained for a few months before surgical options are considered. Conservative treatment includes rest, heat and ice therapy, exercise and stretching, pain medication, physical therapy and lifestyle modifications. If conservative treatment fails to resolve degenerative bulging disc symptoms after a few months, your physician may recommend steroid injections or minimally invasive spine surgery.