Bulging Discs in the Back or Neck

Intervertebral discs are the shock-absorbing structures between each vertebra. The discs have a thick outer layer surrounding a soft, gel-like center. A bulging disc is a condition in which the inner portion of the intervertebral disc begins to protrude from the outer wall of the disc. That protrusion or bulge can put pressure on the surrounding nerve roots, leading to pain that radiates down the back and/or other areas of the body depending on its location within the spinal column. A bulging disc may be a precursor to a herniated disc, or one which has partially or completely broken through the outer wall of the intervertebral disc.

When a disc herniates, the contents may compress the spinal cord or the spinal nerve roots. In some instances, fragments from the outer disc wall (annulus) break from the parent disc and drift into the spinal canal. A bulging disc that protrudes into the spaces of the spinal canal is known as spinal stenosis. Bulging discs may also cause sciatica, or symptoms of leg pain and possibly tingling, numbness and weakness that originates in the lower back and travels through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg.

a bulging disc of the spine

A Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc

Bulging disc is also commonly referred to as a herniated disc or slipped disc. The primary difference between a bulging disc and herniated disc are whether they are contained or non-contained.

Contained Disc vs. Non-Contained Disc Disorders in the Back or Neck

A contained disc: such as a bulging disc — has not broken through the outer wall of the intervertebral disc, which means the nucleus pulposus remains contained within the annulus fibrosus.

A non-contained disc: such as a ruptured or herniated disc — has either partially or completely broken through the outer wall of the intervertebral disc.

A bulging disc may be a precursor to a herniation. The disc may protrude into the spinal canal without breaking through the disc wall. The gel-like interior (nucleus pulposus) does not leak out. The disc remains intact except a small bubble appears on the outside of the disc.

When a disc herniates, the contents may compress the spinal cord or the spinal nerve roots. To complicate matters, sometimes fragments from the annulus (the outer disc wall) may break away from the parent disc and drift into the spinal canal.

Causes

A bulging disc is more common than you think, especially as the outer layer of the disc weakens with age. While age is one of the most common causes of a bulging disc, there are many activities that could lead to the development of disc bulges.

Common causes of a bulged disc include:

Trauma

Poor posture

Repetitive motions, often linked to your occupation

Poor lifting techniques

Contact sports

Other factors such as smoking, being overweight and consuming too much alcohol could also speed up the process of the deterioration of a disc’s outer layer.

Symptoms

Some cases of a bulging disc are asymptomatic until the bulging disc begins to press on a nerve. When the nerves are pinched or compressed, bulging disc symptoms will vary based on where the compressed nerve is located. The majority of bulging disc cases are in the lumbar spine.

A damaged disc in the lower back can cause pain in the hips, legs, buttocks and feet. A bulging disc in the lower back can also lead to sciatica pain, which can cause debilitating pain and make it difficult to complete everyday tasks.

A damaged disc in the cervical spine can cause pain that may radiate from the neck, down to the arms and fingers.

Treatment

If a bulging disc is compressing the spinal cord or pinching a nerve, surgery may be the best treatment option if you have already completed conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, without resolution of the problem.

Some of the treatment options for a bulging disc include:

Foraminotomy/Foraminectomy

Laminotomy/Laminectomy

Disectomy

The doctors and staff at The Bonati Spine Institute will provide each patient with a comprehensive overview of how each procedure works and is completed.

The Bonati Spine Institute encourages patients with bulging discs to contact us to request a no-obligation MRI review or discuss your conditions with our medical professionals. Find out why The Bonati Spine Procedures are considered to be among the world’s best solutions when it comes to advanced spine surgery. Your pain from bulging discs can become a thing of the past.