Back Pain: What is a bulging disc?

Back pain is a common health problem faced by millions of Americans above the age of 30. The condition is usually related to problems in the spinal cord. The spine maintains body function by receiving information from the brain, then transmitting the signals to other body organs.

To understand the causes of back pain, you first need to understand the physiology of the spine. The spine is divided into five segments, each with nerves innervating particular parts of your body. Damage to the spine in the cervical segment causes issues such as headaches. Similarly, damage to the spine in the lumbar segment or compression of the nerves in the segment causes problems such as back pain. The damage or compression can be caused by conditions such as spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, herniated discs, degenerated discs, bulging discs, et cetera.

What is a bulging disc?

You first need to know what a disc is for you to understand what we mean by a bulging disc. The vertebrae house the spinal cord. Within the vertebrae, there are small disc-shaped structures called intervertebral spinal discs. The outer casing of the disc is made up of hard cartilage while the middle of the disc has soft cartilage. The function of the discs is to cushion the spinal cord by absorbing any shock due to mechanical trauma. The discs also make you flexible and move easily.

A bulging disc is a disc that displaces from its original position in the vertebrae. A bulged disc protrudes due to swelling of the cartilage that makes up the disc. In most bulging cases, the outer cartilage is the one that is affected. The bulging occurs in a quarter or half the circumference of the cartilage. The cartilage stiffens and affects your movement and flexibility. When the disc bulges, it can compress nerves close to the disc, causing pain. In back pain due to a bulging disc, the discs within the lumbar segment of the spine are the ones that bulge.

A bulging of the disc does not occur suddenly; it occurs over time. In most cases, you are unaware of the bulging until it has become severe enough to cause back pain. This is because symptoms take time to present. They may start as tingling and numbness of the extremities. The symptoms then progress to moderate and severe pain as the bulging increases. The more strain you exert on your back, the faster the bulging progresses to cause severe pain. A bulging disc can also progress to a herniated disc if not managed as soon as symptoms present.

What are the risk factors of a bulging disc?

Bulging of a disc usually occurs as a result of age. Above the age of 30, your body starts to undergo changes. Parts such as bones and discs experience wear and tear. The older you get, the more wear and tear you undergo. This is why most people above 60 years have many health problems such as weak bones, poor eyesight, and impaired posture.

Age is a major risk factor for a bulging disc. However, other risk factors can make a disc bulge at an earlier age. Some of the risk factors include:

  • A sedentary lifestyle.
  • Sports.
  • Career.

This is a lifestyle in which you do not eat healthily and fail to exercise. Lack of exercise can make the body stiffen and increase the chances of having a bulged disc. Frequently eating unhealthy foods such as junk food can also lead to obesity, which is another risk factor of bulging discs. A lifestyle involving smoking also puts you at risk. Sports that involve lifting heavy weights such as bodybuilding, can strain the spine and cause bulging discs. Similarly, athletes who fail to wear orthopedic shoes are at risk. You are likely to get a bulging disc if you are in a career where you lift heavy equipment, such as the construction industry. The heavy equipment strains your spine and can cause a disc to bulge.

When you complain of continuous back pain to your doctor, a diagnosis will be done to determine the cause of the problem. Doctors usually check for a bulged disc by doing an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. Once a bulging of the disc is confirmed, there are treatment options such as spinal decompression that the doctor will recommend.

At Integrative Chiropractic, our professional chiropractor attends to problems such as back pain due to disc bulging. If you live within Birmingham and Alabama and have been experiencing constant back pain, we can help. Schedule an appointment by calling 205-637-1363 today. You can also visit our clinic; we are located in Hoover, Alabama.

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