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What Causes a Bulging Disc?

A spine injury or trauma can cause a bulging disc, but most often it’s a result of aging. As we get older, the cartilage in our joints tend to become dry and brittle. The core of a disc is a gelatin-like substance while the outer layer is tough cartilage.

When the outer layer weakens, the core can ‘spill’ through the outer layer, forming the bulge. When the bulge aggravates surrounding nerves, it can cause terrible pain. This aggravation typically results in nerve compression and nerve inflammation.

What Are the Symptoms of a Bulging Disc?

The symptoms of a bulging disc can vary based on the location of the injured disc as well as the severity of the bulge. For example, symptoms from a bulging disc in the upper back will likely impact the arms. Symptoms from a bulging disc in the lower back will likely impact the lower legs. Common bulging disc symptoms include:

  • Numbness and tingling. You feel it in the arms or legs depending on the path of the nerve that is compressed or inflamed.
  • Weakness A nerve’s pain signals can interfere with the motor signals to certain muscle groups.
  • Pain. It often starts in the spine and travels to the arms or legs. Sudden body movements, such as sneezing, can send pain shooting into your limbs.
  • Bladder or bowel control problems. This is rare but needs immediate medical attention.

Are you experiencing the symptoms of a bulging disc? Find out if you have this condition below.


What Should I Do About Bulging Disc Pain?

Depending on the severity and location of your bulging disc, it is possible for the disc to heal with conservative treatment such as:

  • Rest. A couple of days of bed rest helps relieve the pain.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve) help reduce inflammation that’s causing pain.
  • Physical therapy. Some gentle stretches and strengthening exercises help speed up healing.

How Is a Bulging Disc Treated?

When conservative treatment does not improve the situation or reduce pain, the spine experts at Oasis Orthopedic and Spine may recommend:

  • Epidural steroid injection. An epidural steroid injection can decrease pain by coating the inflamed nerve with anti-inflammatory medicine.
  • Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. There are different types of minimally invasive procedures that can treat a bulging disc. Common surgeries include laminotomy and discectomy. Your spine specialist will determine what surgery is best for you based on your specific situation.

Thanks to advances in technology, spinal disc surgery is not highly invasive. If you think you are experiencing bulging disc pain, find the right treatment for you with our interactive treatment finder below.

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