The spine is composed of the seven cervical vertebrae, twelve thoracic vertebrae, five lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum. Between each of these vertebrae is an intervertebral disc. These discs help provide shock absorption, connect the vertebral bones and protect the spinal cord. Occasionally, these discs slip or bulge and can cause chronic back and neck pain.
What is a Bulging Disc?
The intervertebral disc is composed of an outer and inner layer. The outer, fibrous layer is thick, while the inner layer is jelly-like and softer. Minor stress can damage this outer layer and cause the inner layer to leak out. When this happens, it can press on nearby structures and hit nerves.
The Causes of Bulging Disc
A bulging disc can be caused by a variety of reasons. The most common cause of a bulging disc, however, is aging. As we age, the discs naturally lose water and flatten the discs out. This makes them stiffer and more prone to tearing. Minor stress can prevent the disc from returning to its normal shape and the outer layer of the disc will be stretched, causing the inner layer to leak out.
Although aging is a major factor in the formation of bulging discs, there are several other contributing factors that can cause this earlier in life. These include heavy manual labor, improper lifting techniques, contact sports, severe trauma, and others.
The Symptoms of a Bulging Disc
Symptoms of a bulging disc can vary in severity and location of pain, depending on which disc is bulging along the spine. The symptoms can present itself as back or neck stiffness or pain.
It can also press on the nerves as they exit the spine and cause leg and arm pain. This pain can vary and may feel like a jolt or electric shock. Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs is also a possible symptom. It may also cause generalized weakness and decreased hand grip strength.
The symptoms of a bulging disc may worsen with certain positions and can worsen with exercise and heavy lifting.
The Treatment of a Bulging Disc
Bulging discs are generally treated with conservative interventions, before progressing to surgical options. After the injury, light movement and bed rest are important to the healing process. Your chiropractor will help design exercises and movements to encourage healing while limiting pain. Chiropractor spinal manipulation is also an effective treatment used in the management of bulging discs. If these treatments are unsuccessful, injections and spinal surgery is another option.
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