Bulging and Herniated Discs

Age related wear and tear can lead to two very serious conditions, disc bulging or herniation. Sometimes both. But don’t worry. There are things you can do to begin alleviating the pain today!

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Bulging and Herniated Disc Specialists

Comprehensive pain management is vital to a patient’s healing process. Our doctors can thoroughly evaluate your pain symptoms in order to accurately diagnose the cause.

Once we have an accurate diagnosis, we will work together with you to create a treatment plan that will effectively address your pain. 

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Bulging And Herniated Discs Overview

The spinal column is made up of 26 bones (your vertebrae) and 23 discs. Your discs are the cushions between the vertebrates, all along your spinal column. Your discs act as ‘shock absorbers’ that allow for comfortable bending, twisting and flexing.

  • Disc bulging occurs when the disc extends outside its normal space. Disc bulging is usually considered a normal part of aging. The severity of this condition depends on whether the disc is bulging into the spinal canal or not. If it is, it causes the spinal canal to narrow, causing pain. Bulging discs are more common than herniated discs. Wear and tear of the disks happens over time, as people age. Discs are covered with a tough layer of cartilage and contain a softer cartilage in the middle. The soft, inner lay of cartilage can decrease with age and this causes the disc to become compressed and push out. In these types of cases, the bulging disc can touch on a nerve and trigger pain. Bulging discs typically happen at the bottom of the lumbar spine and can also increase the chances of a herniated disc occurring.  
  • Herniated discs are often referred to as slipped discs or ruptured discs. A disc herniation is when the ‘inner jelly-like substance’ pushes out of the disc because of tears or defects in the outer cartilage layer. This puts pressure on the spinal nerves, causing pain. Herniated discs are fairly common and can develop anywhere along the spine, although it is seen more in the lower back or in the neck. Herniated discs themselves are not very noticeable and many people have no idea they have one until they have imaging done for another reason. The issues start when the slipped disc compresses the nerve and causes pain. When this happens there can be a loss of mobility, which affects a person’s daily life and how they are able to go about completing regular daily activities. 

Causes of Bulging And Herniated Discs 

Discs can bulge or become herniated as part of the normal aging process and daily wear and tear. However, most people do not experience intense pain as a result. If you do begin to experience the chronic pain associated with bulging and herniated discs, reach out to a medical professional today. 

As a person ages the disk naturally starts to harden and lose fluid volume, which is known as degenerative disc disease. This causes the disc to weaken and cracks potentially form in the outer layer, where the inner gel-like substance can rupture through. As the disc continues to degenerate even a simple twisting motion can make the disc rupture. Herniated discs most often occur in people in their 30’s and 40’s, with middle to older age people having a higher risk if they are involved in heavy physical activity.  

Trauma is another way that bulging or ruptured discs form. Excessive strain or a single injury can cause a slipped disc. Those who participate in rigorous exercise routines, such as weight lifting, can easily hurt themselves to where a herniated disc will occur. People who work a physically demanding job should be sure to lift heavy objects correctly to protect their back from injury. 

Research has shown that your chances of herniated discs go up if other members of your family have a history of them, suggesting there is a predisposition for them.

Symptoms of Bulging And Herniated Discs

A herniated disc is more likely to cause pain than a bulging disc, as it usually sticks out further and has more of a chance of irritating nerve roots.  

Symptoms can vary depending on the location and size of the herniation and may only lead to some slight pain in the lower back. If the bulging or herniated disc is pressing on a nerve then it may also cause numbness along the nerve or weakening of the area along the nerve. There can be a tingling or burning feeling that radiates to the neck, arms, hands, back, legs, and feet. Muscle spasms or cramping can also be symptoms of disc problems. 

Sciatica can develop due to the nerve compression of a bulging or slipped disk. Sciatica is pain radiating along the sciatic nerve, which is a nerve that stems from the lower back and runs down both legs. 

In some rare, but extreme cases you may also lose bladder or bowel control. If you experience this then you need to seek immediate medical attention. 

Diagnosis of Bulging And Herniated Discs

Our physicians are board-certified, and are dedicated to giving you a comprehensive exam that will aid in diagnosing the cause of your symptoms. Using advanced diagnostic techniques, our doctors will find out the reason for your pain, and then get you on the road to better health right away. Here are a few steps our physicians use when completing their comprehensive exams: 

  • We take your complete medical history to identify or rule out possible causes of your pain.
  • We conduct a thorough physical exam
  • We carefully review your symptoms, including how you would describe the pain (burning, achy, dull, etc.) and whether certain positions or activities make the pain feel better or worse
  • We may order diagnostic tests, including MRI, CT scan or discogram, to help us diagnose your chronic pain

Treatments For Bulging And Herniated Discs

  • Biofeedback: The idea behind Biofeedback is that people can gain control over what are typically considered involuntary functions, and therefore gain control over their health. These involuntary functions are things like blood pressure and heart rate. If you are able to have more control over your body then you will be able to regulate the functions that trigger pain. 

  • Spinal Cord Stimulation Treatment: This is a procedure that delivers small electrical signals to the spinal cord through the nerves, to mask the pain signals. A spinal cord stimulator may be an option when other traditional pain management options have not worked. 

  • Intrathecal Pumps Treatment: A small device that administers medication directly, like morphine, directly into the spinal canal. By delivering small doses this way, it can minimize the effects of taking larger doses orally. 

  • Radiofrequency Ablation Treatment: RFA is a minimally invasive procedure that uses heat to minimize and stop pain signals from moving throughout the body. Nerve endings that cause pain are “burned” so the pain signals are not sent to the brain. 

  • Trigger point injection Treatment: TPI is a procedure used to treat areas where spasms and inflammation occur in the skeletal muscle. A trigger point injection is delivered directly to the trigger point in the body. 

  • Epidural Steroid Injection Treatment: ESIs deliver anesthetic and steroid medication directly to the epidural space in the back. Epidural steroid injections numb the inflamed nerves and prevent pain signals from being sent to the brain. 

  • Alternative therapies: For those who would like to try, alternative therapies can be easily integrated with traditional treatments to manage their pain. These therapies can minimize the need for opioid medication for many. 

  • Medication Management: Managing medication is a critical aspect of treating chronic pain. Medication management is provided by the pain management specialists monitoring your care to ensure that you are on the right medications, at the appropriate dosage. 

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Please note: We accept Workers Compensation Insurance and Personal Injury Patients 

Please note: We accept Workers Compensation Insurance and Personal Injury Patients 

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