Bulging disc

What is a Bulging Disc?

Human spine consists of 33 vertebrae that are stacked one over the other. In between these vertebrae there are discs which act as cushions for the vertebrae to perform the functions that a human spine has to perform in the daily activities of life. Discs are circular in shape with a harder outer ring called annulus fibrosus and a softer inner ring called nucleus pulposus which contains a jelly likes substance.When spine sustains an injury it may result in bulging disc which can occur in lumbar spine, thoracic spine or cervical spine. Lumbar spine refers to the lower back portion of the spine, thoracic spine refers to the upper and mid back portion of the spine and cervical spine refers to the neck portion of the spine. Injury to the spine may vary from considerable mild strains to complete rupture resulting in the flowing of the nucleus fluid to the strains in the outer part of the disc. A disc bulge may press against the nerve roots where it emerges out of the spine and may cause severe pain. The pain may be felt in the spine only or may be felt in the area where the nerves are communicating to.

What is a Bulging Disc?

Bulging Disc is commony known as protruding disc or slipped disc. It is a condition in which the inner part of the disk is protruded through the outer ring caused by weakness or injury to the bones.Bulging disc is a common phenomenon and normally cause discomfort and pain to different parts of body. By ageing the fibrous part of the intervertebral discs will get debilitated. Due to this the central part of the disc stretch to the outer ring making the disc to bulge. Initially most people dont recognize it, but when bulging disc influence on the nerves of spine symptoms starts appearing.

How bulging disc is caused?

Disc bulging may be caused due to an already existing weakness in the annulus or due to a sudden increase in pressure on the annulus causing its fibers to tear. The causes for disc bulging can be classified into three classes.

Accumulated micro trauma

Wrong postures in sitting, standing or carrying out your work may overstretch your spine resulting in the weakness of posterior fibro cartilages. It is always better to try new postures or better postures to prevent overstretching of your spine.

Unexpected sudden pressure experienced by the spine

In situations like a motor vehicle accident or sports injury sudden traumatic pressure may be experienced by the spine resulting in the tearing of annulus fibers.

Genetic factors

Genetic predispositions like lesser density of fibrocartiliginous fibers, excessive abdominal fat, poor strength of lower limbs etc can also be contributing factors to the bulging of discs.

What are the symptoms of bulging disc and it is Diagnosed?

Increase in back pain when you sit, bend, cough and when you try to lift some weight is a symptom of bulging of discs.Based on your medical history and symptoms experienced by you, your doctor can suspect bulging disc problem. Clinical tests will be conducted by your surgeon and images obtained in X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans will be helpful in confirming the diagnosis.

What are the Non – Surgical treatments for bulging disc?

For moderate bulging of the discs, conservative method of treatment will be sufficient. This treatment will be based on physiotherapy which is intended to pave way for the fluid to return and remain in center position of the disc. Your physiotherapist will advise you the best positions for optimum convenience and he may also brace your spine to give minimum strain. The conservative treatment for bulging discs can be done in the following stages.

Relieving pain

In an effort to relieve your pain, efforts are made to reduce the swelling. Electrotherapy, acupuncture, massaging of soft tissues, use of a back brace, use of non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs etc have been found to be very useful in reducing the swelling and pain in the spine.

Restoring normal range of motion and strength

 As your pain starts reducing, the physician will start his next stage of the treatment which is intended to restore the normal range of activities that your spine was doing, without causing further strain to the already strained spine. At this stage the physiotherapist will commence a stability program intended to refurbish your muscles. He may also suggest a muscle stretching program and remedial massage program to rejuvenate your muscles.

Restoring the full functionality of your spine

Once your spine has regained its lost strength, your physiotherapist will concentrate on ways to restore the full functionality of your back as is required by you. Depending on your nature of work, style of life etc the demands of your spine may be different. Some persons may need only the ability to walk for a few minutes while others may require additional power for lifting of weights, running etc. Your physiotherapist will prescribe a program which will enable you to restore the full functionality of your spine.

How to prevent recurrence

 The continuance of exercises suggested by your physiotherapist is very crucial in preventing the recurrence of the back pain and other inconveniences which were felt by you. Your physiotherapist will conduct assessment of the biomechanics of your spine and pelvic regions and try to correct any defects noticed.

What are the Surgical treatments for bulging disc?

If your back pain is not settled by conservative methods of treatments already detailed above, the final solution for this problem is surgical procedure which has always been found to be successful in finding a permanent solution to spine problem. If you have severe problems of bowel and bladder control then your surgeon will suggest that surgical method is the only remedy available and then you will have to accept it.

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