As we get older, the protective cushiony discs between the vertebrae in our spine can dry out due to dehydration of the disc material, which is cartilage. When this cartilage dries out, it loses its integrity and can begin to slightly flatten out between its two vertebrae. This causes the disc to be compressed and to bulge out on one side or all around the disc.
This compression does not usually cause the disc to burst, which would permit the softer inner material to leak out of the disc. A burst disc is called a herniated disc, slipped disc, or ruptured disc – and this tends to cause more pain than just a bulging disc.
Let’s talk about how a bulging disc develops and what can be done to treat it.
Who Is at Risk of a Bulging Disc in the Spine?
There are several conditions that can cause a person to suffer a bulging disc in their spine. These can include:
- Advanced age
- Poor posture
- Sudden trauma to the back
- Genetic susceptibility
People over the age of 60 are much more at risk of having a bulging disc than are younger people. This is because of natural age-related dehydration, which makes it all the more important to stay hydrated and active in order to maintain the integrity and mobility of your spine.
Constant slouching can put stress on your spine and therefore on the discs which must support the vertebrae. To prevent developing bulging discs from poor posture, it’s best to sit up straight and to frequently adjust your posture and move around.
Trauma to the disc can be caused by a sports impact (either sudden or repetitive), a fall, a car crash, or wear and tear to the spine. This can also happen due to picking up heavy objects using poor form, and lifting with the back rather than with the legs.
Symptoms of Bulging Discs
The symptoms vary from person to person and case by case, but they can include the following:
- Back pain that comes and goes or stays
- Back pain that becomes worse with movement, sneezing, or standing for long periods
- Muscle spasms in your back
- Weakening of the muscles in your legs
- Persistent numbness in a leg or foot
- Sciatica pain, which starts near the buttock and travels down the back of your leg to the calf area or to the foot
Can a Bulging Disc Be Treated?
Yes. It is best to visit a spine specialist who will perform a physical exam and will most likely order diagnostic testing, such as X-rays and/or an MRI. These provide a noninvasive way for the physician to take a look at the discs between your vertebrae for evaluation.
The orthopedic spinal specialist may recommend medication, minimally invasive spine surgery, or physical therapy. If physical therapy is recommended, the therapist will teach you exercises for maintaining proper stability in your spine. The physical therapist (PT) will also show you how to avoid re-injuring your back.
Spine Surgeon in Greater Detroit
If you have back pain, it’s time to see a skilled orthopedic physician for an evaluation and treatment. Dr. Bradley Ahlgren is located in Rochester Hills, Michigan, and he has decades of experience successfully treating patients who have bulging discs and other musculoskeletal issues.
Contact Ahlgren Spine today by calling our team at (248) 215-8080 or request an appointment online now. Let us help you find relief from your back pain so you can get back to the lifestyle you enjoy!