A Guide to Disc Bulges and How You Can Keep Yours Under Control
Ouch, that hurts! You shouldn’t ignore your back pain, especially if it comes from your lower back or neck, as it may be a disc bulge.
It might be tempting to ignore back pain, especially if you feel it regularly, but doing so could set you up for a lifetime of discomfort.
In this blog, we’ll discuss what causes a bulging disc and why it is essential to seek treatment to prevent them from getting worse.
From the causes of bulging discs to bulging disc exercises and finding out if bulging discs can be fixed over time, here are some answers to your questions about bulging discs.
What is a Disc Bulge?
A disc bulge is also commonly referred to as a “slipped disc”. According to Medical News Today, it is an injury of the spine or the back of the neck that can happen suddenly or accumulate over time.
Spinal discs are the jelly-like cushions that sit between the vertebrae in your spinal canal. They act as shock absorbers between the bones and give you the mobility to bend or move.
A disc bulge, or herniation, can occur when the spongy centre of the disc (nucleus) pushes out through the rubbery outer layer (annulus). Depending on the severity of the bulge, it can impact the nerve roots in the spinal cord, which can cause nerve pain and parasthesia.
How Likely am I to Get a Disc Bulge?
While herniated discs can occur anywhere along the spine, a bulging disc in the lumbar spine (lower back) or cervical spine (neck) are the most commonly experienced. A mid-back disc bulge is not typical.
Bulging discs are most common among people between the ages of 30-50 and men are twice as likely to get a disc bulge as women. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, between 60% and 80% of people will suffer back pain at some point in their lives, many of which will be bulging discs.
What Causes a Bulging Disc?
There are a few lifestyle-related risk factors that make you more likely to develop a bulging disc regardless of age or gender, although your risk does increase as you age due to disc degeneration.
Here are some factors that trigger disc bulges:
- Sitting for long periods in the same position
- Being overweight
- Lifting heavy objects
- Repetitive bending or twisting motions for work, sports or hobbies
- Degenerative Disc Disease which causes disc collapse over time
Can a Bulging Disc be Fixed?
Treating a bulging disc is essential, so it does not get worse. Here are 4 ways to treat your disc herniation depending on its stage.
- Home treatment: It is ideal for treating a disc bulge professionally to prevent it from worsening to a severe case, but during the early stages, you can try some home remedies from disc bulge exercises to heat therapy, and changing the way you sleep. A hot bath with Epsom salt is also an excellent way to relax and soothe your muscles. If you are in a lot of pain, you may want to avoid heat altogether and numb the pain with ice.
- Do disc bulge exercises: While doing disc bulge exercises alone might not fully treat your herniated disc, it can act as a preventative measure and strengthen your lower back and core if done for an extended period. Experts such as chiropractors say gentle activities and exercises can strengthen the muscles supporting the spine and reduce pressure on the spinal column. These simple exercises can also promote flexibility in the spine which can help reduce the risk of a recurrent disc bulge.
- See a chiropractor: A chiropractor can help you get your back feeling strong and pain-free. Chiropractors can also help get to the deep-rooted issue of your disc bulge and set you up with a rehabilitation plan, such as spinal decompression and diet and exercise.
- Get a massage: Whether with a physical therapist, chiropractor or registered massage therapist, massages can promote relaxation and muscle health. Just be sure that getting a massage is safe for your condition and won’t worsen your pain.
Signs you Should See a Chiropractor
Can you fix a bulging disc on your own? You can try to remedy the problem yourself at home at the first signs of a bulging disc, but you will know that it’s time to see a doctor or specialist when one of the following happens:
- If your pain interferes with daily activities: If you didn’t get to work because you can’t get out of bed or can barely move, it would be vital to seek medical attention. Pain medication and other non-surgical treatments may be recommended.
- When your symptoms aren’t improving: If your pain doesn’t let up while you’re doing bulging disc exercises at home, you should make an appointment with a specialist. You may be referred for an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan before a treatment plan is made.
- If you develop loss of bladder or bowel control: Severe cases of disc bulge can cause the disc to compress nerves that control the bowel and bladder, causing the loss of bowel and bladder control. If this happens, your disc bulge condition may be severe enough to require bulging disc surgery such as a discectomy or spinal fusion.
- You notice tingling, numbness, or loss of strength in your arms, hands, legs, or feet: tingling is a sign of nerve damage in your spine from your disc bulge sending messages to your brain. Spinal injections such as epidural steroid injections are one treatment option you may be offered.
- You have trouble standing or walking due to muscle weakness or leg pain: This also falls to the pain of your disc bulge affecting your everyday life and productivity. You will need to see a specialist such as a chiropractor if you cannot walk.
What Can I Expect From a Chiropractor?
Seeing a chiropractor is a good starting point because it will help you get to the bottom of your bulging disc. A chiropractor can diagnose you, treat you with care and ensure that your injury is progressing toward health rather than worsening.
At Mind Body Spine, we have excellent practitioners who will treat your spinal ailments with care by providing personalized treatments dedicated to strengthening your spine.
From exercises to diet to specialized treatments, you’re in great healing hands with Mind Body Spine. If you’re in Victoria, BC, contact us today and discover everything we have to offer to build healthy spines.