A bulging disc extends outside the space it should normally occupy, kind of like a burger that’s too big for a bun. A bulge usually affects a large portion of the disc. The part of the disc that is bulging is usually the tough outer layer of the cartilage.
What is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc happens when a crack in the outer layer of cartilage allows some of the inner cartilage to protrude outside of the disc. Herniated discs are also known as ruptured discs or slipped discs. They are also known to be much more painful than a bulging disc.
What Causes a Herniated or Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc can be a normal part of aging. Some discs start to bulge because of the aging process, and some start to bulge because of degenerative condition of the discs between the vertebrae.
An injury to your disc such as a fall or a car accident can cause your disc to bulge. Overuse and misuse by an athlete or a person with a very physical job can cause a disc to bulge. Smoking can also cause your discs to deteriorate.
A bulging disc becomes serious when it bulges out enough to cause the narrowing of your spine. If there are bone spurs in the facet joints behind the bulging disc, that combination can cause the narrowing of your spinal cord in that specific area. This is usually referred to as spinal stenosis.
Symptoms of a Herniated or Bulging Disc
Bulging discs press against your spinal cord, and when this starts in your thoracic spine, the symptoms can include:
· Muscle weakness, numbness, or tingling in one or both of your legs
· Spastic reflexes
· Bladder of bowel function issues
· Paralysis from the waist down
In your cervical spine, the symptoms include:
· Pain when you move your neck
· Deep pain over or near your shoulder blade
· Pain that radiates from your upper arm, forearm, and maybe your fingers
Bulging disc pain starts slowly and gets worse over a period of time. Certain activities can cause the pain to become worse. Herniated disc pain often times gets better in a few weeks or months.
Diagnosing Herniated or Bulging Discs
Diagnosing a bulging or herniated disc starts with a physical exam. A problem could indicate that there is a disc pushing against your spinal cord. Your doctor may also do some tests that include:
· CT Scan
Treatment of a Bulging or Herniated Disc
A bulging disc does not always mean surgery. The treatment depends on your symptoms. Sometimes simple steps like pain medication and physical therapy will do the job. If your symptoms do not improve or get worse over time, your doctor may likely suggest surgery to get you relief.
When you need surgery, the doctor will usually perform a discectomy. This means he will surgically remove the disc to decompress your spinal cord and spinal nerves. If the bulging disc is affecting your thoracic spine, the doctor will likely remove a small part of the vertebrae body and the disc. If a larger section needs to be removed, spinal fusion may also be required. Another surgical option is to remove the small bone on the side of the vertebrae that will help the doctor see and treat the disc through an incision in the back of your spine.
If surgery for a bulging disk requires removing a larger section of bone and discs, that particular section of the spine might become unstable. If this occurs, it might be necessary to fuse the bones above and below that section of your spine. Bone graft material will be used to get unstable bones to grow back together. Rods, screws, and plates are usually used to hold the bones in place so the bone graft is able to heal.
St. Louis Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident, and you have had to have spinal surgery due to your injury of a herniated or bulging disc, you need the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney.