Disc bulges are a common condition that affects the spinal discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae in the spine. These bulges can occur in any part of the spine, but the most common locations for disc bulges are the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions. Additionally, this spinal condition can cause a range of symptoms and problems for those who suffer from them. In this article, we will explore what disc bulges are, what causes them, the symptoms they cause, and the available treatment options. We will also explain why chiropractic care can be an effective treatment for disc bulges.
What Are Disc Bulges?
A disc bulge occurs when the outer layer of the spinal disc (called the annulus fibrosus) weakens or tears, causing the soft inner material inside a spinal disc (called the nucleus pulposus) to push out (or bulge out) beyond the edge of the vertebrae. This bulge can put pressure on the nerves that run through the spinal column, causing pain and other symptoms. Disc bulges can occur as a result of aging, trauma, or repetitive motion. They can also develop due to poor posture, lack of exercise, and being overweight.
Common Locations For Disc Bulges
As mentioned, the most common locations for disc bulges are the lower back, but they also can and do occur in the neck. In fact, about 90-percent of bulging disc cases occur in the lower back, the most common bulging disc location sits between lumbar vertebrae L4/L5 and between vertebrae L5/S1. Lumbar disc bulges can cause pain, tingling, or weakness in the lower back, legs, and feet. Cervical disc bulges can cause pain, tingling, or weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. The cervical disc bulges can cause and/or mimic carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
Causes Of Disc Bulges
Disc bulges can occur due to several reasons. Some of the most common causes of disc bulges include:
- Age-related wear and tear: As people age, the spinal discs can lose their elasticity and become less flexible, making them more susceptible to damage and resulting bulges.
- Trauma: Injuries or accidents that involve the spine can cause the discs to bulge.
- Repetitive motion: Activities that involve repetitive motion or heavy lifting can cause strain, wear and tear on the spinal discs and lead to bulges.
- Poor posture: Poor posture, particularly in people who sit for long periods, can put increased pressure on the spinal discs and cause them to bulge. Of the the main postures (sitting, standing and lying down), sitting puts the most pressure on the lower back discs.
- Being overweight: Excess weight can also put increased pressure on the spine and cause the discs to bulge.
- Genetics: People who have a family history of disc bulges or diseases that can potentiate disc bulges are more likely to develop this condition.
Symptoms And Problems Caused By Disc Bulges
The symptoms of disc bulges can vary depending on their location in the spine. In some cases, they may not cause any symptoms at all. However, when a disc bulge puts pressure on a nerve, it can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the affected area. Some of the most common symptoms of disc bulges include:
- Pain in the neck, arms, back or legs
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Reduced and/or limited range of motion
- Difficulty walking, standing or sitting for long periods of time
- Loss of bladder or bowel control (in severe cases)
If left untreated, disc bulges can lead to other complications, such as discs that become prolapsed, extruded or sequestered, or even spinal stenosis.
Treatment Options For Disc Bulges
The treatment options for disc bulges depend on the severity of the condition and the individual patient’s needs. In mild cases, rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medication may be all that is needed to relieve symptoms. For more severe cases, a doctor may recommend physical therapy, prescription medication, or spinal injections. Surgery is typically only recommended in cases where the bulge is causing severe symptoms or is at risk of causing permanent nerve damage.
Chiropractic care for disc bulges
Chiropractic care can be an effective and natural way to manage disc bulges. A chiropractor can use a variety of techniques to help reduce pain, increase range of motion and mobility, and improve overall spinal function. Some common chiropractic techniques for managing disc bulges include:
- Spinal adjustments to improve spinal alignment and relieve pressure on the spinal nerves
- Soft tissue therapy to reduce muscle tension and improve circulation
- Rehabilitation exercises to improve spinal stability and flexibility
- Posture and body mechanics education to help prevent future disc bulges
Chiropractic care is a great option for managing disc bulges because it is non-invasive, drug-free, and has no to minimal side-effects. Additionally, chiropractic care is often less expensive than other treatment options, making it a more affordable choice for many people.
Disc bulges are a common spinal condition that can cause a range of symptoms and problems. If you think you may be suffering from a disc bulge, it is important to seek medical attention to determine the best course of treatment. Chiropractic care can be an effective, natural and successful way to manage disc bulges and help you get back to living a pain-free life as quickly and completely as possible.