Bulging discs are similar but not identical to herniated discs. A herniated disc occurs when a disc is ruptured and the inner cartilage spills out into other areas of the spine. A bulging disc, on the other hand, is a disc that protrudes into other spinal regions and interacts with other elements of the spinal column, but is not ruptured.
Bulging Spinal Discs vs. Herniated Discs
Bulging discs are more common than herniated discs but are somewhat less likely to cause pain. Because the outer annulus (outer covering) of the disc is heavily innervated disc bulging may sometimes create even severe pain symptoms. With injury or natural progression bulging discs can become herniated.
Bulging Discs Causes & Symptoms
Spinal discs can bulge and move out of place for a number of reasons, including:
- Injuries (i.e. from a car accident, or being hit hard during a sporting activity)
- Aging (the degenerative process may begin as early as the teen years)
- Poor posture
- Constant, repetitive movements
Bulging discs can occur in the lumbar (low back), thoracic (chest) or cervical (neck) area of the spine. Symptoms differ based on which region the bulging disc is located. Common symptoms to watch out for include:
- Numbness or tingling in the neck that can radiate out into the arms and hands.
- Pain that moves from the lower back into the buttocks and legs.
Pain from a bulging disc usually flares up during activity, and will decrease with rest.
Diagnosing a Bulging Disc
To diagnose a bulging disc, your doctor will begin with a routine physical exam, analyzing your back for any pressure points or tender areas. If a bulging disc is suspected, imaging tests (such as MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays) can help confirm the diagnosis.
Bulging Disc Treatment Options
The first avenue for treating a bulging disc is generally with conservative, non-surgical methods. These can include physical therapy exercises, working on improving your posture, massage, pain medication, or steroid injections. The majority of symptomatic bulging discs can be successfully treated without surgery.
Edina Spine Surgeon
When pain symptoms are severe, surgical options can be explored. Dr. Sinicropi offers minimally invasive surgical solutions to treat bulging discs. The procedure is quick, simple, and effective and may allow you to get back to a fully-functioning, pain-free life in no time. Some patients however may require total disc replacement to treat their pain. If you are experiencing symptoms of a bulging disc, and it’s causing you pain, contact Dr. Sinicropi today to talk about your treatment options. Dr. Sinicropi treats patients with bulging discs in Edina, Stillwater, and throughout the Twin Cities Metro Area – 800.234.1826.