What Are Herniated or Bulging Discs?
A herniated disc happens when an intervertebral disc in the spinal column gets damaged or ruptured by age or injury causing the fluid in the discs to push against or even out of the outer membrane. A fibrous outer portion of a disc will squeeze or bulge out into the spinal canal when ruptured or torn. That ruptured disc can press on nerves in the spinal canal causing pain and inflammation. Herniated discs are typically caused by excessive weight, aging and degeneration, a sudden strain from lifting heavy items incorrectly or twisting too fast.
What Causes Herniated or Bulging Discs?
The most common cause of herniated and bulging discs is the degeneration that comes with age. As we get older, our discs lose hydration, which makes them more susceptible to irritation and damage. It is possible to suffer a bulging or herniated disc as a result of stress from athletic activity such as weight lifting.
Daily activity at work or in your personal life can contribute to your chances of developing herniated or bulging discs. Repetitive movements, especially those that involve twisting or bending, can put pressure on your discs. Poor posture or spending long periods of time seated are also associated with herniated discs.
Symptoms of Herniated or Bulging Discs
Pain in the area of the bulging or herniated disc is the most common symptom. Because discs provide flexibility and act as shock absorbers for your spine, when a disc can’t provide flexibility and absorb shock so the bones in the spine aren’t supported, it leads to chronic pain. This pain may include muscle spasms, numbness, muscle weakness, and tingling in the legs or feet. There may also be pain that radiates down to your buttocks, legs, and feet, which is called sciatica. People who experience herniated discs in their necks or upper backs may experience neck pain or headaches. Usually there will be a direct correspondence between the location of the pain and the location of the herniated disc. Pain from a bulging or herniated disc may last for several days then suddenly improve.
How Herniated or Bulging Discs Are Diagnosed
Your doctor will look at your medical history and perform a physical exam to see if you are suffering from a bulging or herniated disc. In some cases, diagnostic tests may be performed to detect which disc is causing painful symptoms. Contrast scans, CT scans, and MRIs can all be used in the diagnosis of bulging or herniated discs.
If your doctor finds multiple herniated discs in your back, a discogram may be performed. This test, which involves injecting dye into a herniated disc, can outline tears that are leading to pain.
Herniated or Bulging Discs Treatment
Herniated and bulging discs often resolve on their own without intervention. Our healthcare team can help you with treatments to limit your pain during recovery. Doctors recommend rest during healing, with occasional short walks to reduce pain and stiffness. For many patients, over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen can help with pain and inflammation. Prescription medication may be used to combat pain.
If your herniated disc is not healing quickly enough, your doctor may wish to use medical treatments to ease pain and speed healing. Common treatments for herniated or bulging discs include:
- Epidural steroids. These injections into the epidural layer of the spine can speed up healing.
- Spinal cord stimulation. This treatment uses electrical stimulation to block pain signals between the brain and the area around the herniated disc. It can be a good approach when there is too much inflammation from other conditions.
- Chiropractic treatment. Adjustments can be a helpful part of pain management when healing from a herniated disc.
- Massage. Massage can help relieve muscle tension that contributes to the pain of a herniated or bulging disc.
An untreated herniated disc could lead to chronic back and leg pain as well as a loss of sensation in your legs or feet. At Clearway Pain Solutions we treat patients with herniated discs in an effort to get you back to your life before you had chronic pain. Our team of experts create a treatment plan specific to you and your case to offer the most effective pain relief methods. Contact Clearway Pain Solutions to schedule a consultation and get relief from a herniated disc.