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Disc Bulge or Bulging Disc

Bulging discs are a common occurrence, and often without symptoms; however, they can be extremely painful, or even debilitating. Localized or radiating pain, muscle weakness, or tingling and numbness can all be signs of this condition. If an area in your neck or back, buttocks or hip, or even your fingers or toes feels as though it has “fallen asleep”, and this sensation is long lasting or cannot be explained, a bulging disc may be to blame. The dedicated staff at Advance Health and Wellness will work with you to try and discover the location of the disc causing your problems, and develop a course of therapy and treatment that is right for you.

Discs are the spongey, shock absorbers in between the vertebrae in the spine. They are made up of two layers of cartilage: one hard outer ring and a softer inner ring with a consistency similar to gel. The shape can be thought of as similar to a tire on its side, though instead of a metal rim in the middle, there is the gel-like substance. The purpose of these discs is to simultaneously separate and connect each vertebra in your spine to the ones above and below it. Over time, the “gel” can harden, making it more difficult for the discs to absorb movement, and thus more prone to injury. This is why people over the age of 60 are more likely to experience bulging discs. Repetitive movement of the discs without the “cushion” in between can eventually lead to swelling, or bulging.

While increasing age is a factor, people of any age can suffer from disc bulge. There are many other factors that can cause the condition, such as working in a job that requires you to lift or bend often, or drive for long distances. As with most back injuries, participation is contact sports, such as football, mixed martial arts, or wrestling also put you at risk. Other factors can be smoking, drinking alcohol, family history of back problems, and trauma, like that of a car accident.

Symptoms associated with disc bulge usually begin at the location of the damaged disc and extend to the affected nerves. A bulging disc in the lumbar region, for example, can begin as aching in the lower back and progress into burning pains that continue on to the buttocks, thighs and feet.

Another common site of a bulging disc is the neck. Typical symptoms are pain, numbness, or tingling in the neck, possibly extending down to the shoulders, arms, hands or fingers. A more serious side effect of disc bulge in the neck is myelopathy, which is a set of symptoms that can include a “heavy” feeling in the legs or the inability to completely use your fingers.

Bulging discs in the thoracic region, or upper to mid back, are far less common, though they do happen. Symptoms include pain in the upper back that can radiate to the stomach or chest, because of the thoracic connection to the rib cage. Because of the location of these symptoms, you could worry that your heart or lungs are causing the pain. Do not assume this is the case.

Wherever the location of your bulging disc or the severity of your symptoms, it is important to quickly get an accurate diagnosis. Any injury or condition associated with the spine can become severe, requiring surgery or causing paralysis in extreme cases, if left untreated or undiagnosed.