The spine contains 23 intervertebral discs that keep the spine stable, cushion the vertebrae from each other and maintain flexibility in the spine. However, poor posture, trauma, repetitive strain and aging related wear and tear can all cause a bulging or herniated disc.
A bulging disc is more common and often the precursor to disc herniation.
With age, spinal discs lose hydration and become less pliable. They may become compressed or flattened and bulge out. Since there is no tear in the outer layer of the disc, bulging discs only cause pain and discomfort if they impinge on a nerve root. In that case, even simple functions like coughing or sneezing may worsen the symptoms due to excess pressure on the nerve.
Herniated discs may start with a bulge but eventually tear or rupture or ‘herniate’. In some cases, there is no open tear but the outer wall stretches out and the inner gel leaks out. In this case, the pain is not only due to compression of the nerve root but also inflammation caused due to the leaking fluid in the spinal canal.
Treatment for Bulging and Herniated Discs
Treatment options for bulging and herniated discs include –
- Exercise and physical therapy
- Steroid Injections
- Nerve Blocks
- Radiofrequency Ablation
- Spinal Cord Stimulation