bulging spinal disc
What is the spinal disc?
The spinal disc is a soft cushion that sits between each vertabrae of the spine. This spinal disc becomes more rigid with age. In a young individual, the disc is soft and elastic, but like so many other structures in the body, the disc gradually looses its elasticity and is more vulnerable to injury.
Disc Bulge :-
A 'disc bulge' is a word used to describe findings seen on a MRI study of the spinal discs. The spinal discs are soft cushions that rest between the bones of the spine, the vertebrae. When a disc is damaged, it may herniate, or push out, against the spinal cord and spinal nerves.
A 'disc bulge' is a word commonly used to describe a slight outpouching of the disc. The words 'disc bulge' imply that the disc appears symmetric with a small amount of outpouching, and no significant herniation.
Disc bulging is often an incidental finding on MRI. As people age, disc bulges are commonly seen on MRI. Disc bulges can be seen in patients with no symptoms of back problems, especially in patients over the age of 40. A physical examination can help distinguish a disc bulge that is causing problems from a disc bulge that is an incidental finding.
How does a Bulging Disc Occur?
The terms “bulging disc” and “herniated disc” are often used interchangeably. In both cases, the condition is characterized by a problem with the spongy discs which act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae. Normally, the discs are aligned with the spine, but sometimes the jellylike fluid in the discs presses against the outer walls from the inside, causing a disc to bulge out from between two vertebrae. This condition is sometimes accompanied with significant pain, because the bulging disc can start to press on the nerves of the spine. In the case of herniated discs, the outer casing of the disc actually splits, causing the fluid inside to leak.
Age is one of the leading causes for bulging discs. As people age, their tissues lose elasticity, and this loss can cause the tough outer envelope of the disc to weaken, allowing the fluid inside to bulge. Bulging discs associated with age may also be accompanied by degenerative conditions like osteoporosis, which weaken the spine, making it more susceptible to developing bulging discs.
The risk of developing a bulging disc can be increased by smoking, according to some studies, and taller individuals also seem to be more prone to bulging discs. Weight is also a factor, with people of heavier weight naturally putting more pressure on their discs. People with strenuous jobs are also more likely to develop bulging discs, especially if they do a lot of heavy lifting or bending.
Strain can cause a torn annulus, tearing the outer layer of the disc and causing it to bulge. Spinal trauma and degenerative diseases can also lead to a bulging disc. However, many people develop bulging discs and are entirely unaware of it in the early stages, until the bulge protrudes enough to start putting pressure on the nerves. Pain from a bulging disc may also be dismissed as pain from general spinal strain, which is one reason why it is a good idea to seek medical attention for persistent back pain.
What happens with a 'herniated disc'?
As the spinal disc becomes less elastic, it can rupture. When the disc ruptures, a portion of the spinal disc pushes outside its normal boundary--this is called a herniated disc. When a herniated disc bulges out from between the vertebrae, the spinal nerves and spinal cord can become pinched. There is normally a little extra space around the spinal cord and spinal nerves, but if enough of the herniated disc is pushed out of place, then these structures may be compressed.
What causes of a herniated disc?
When the herniated disc ruptures and pushes out, the nerves may become pinched. A herniated disc may occur suddenly in an event such as a fall or an accident, or may occur gradually with repetitive straining of the spine. Often people who experience a herniated disc already have spinal stenosis, a problem that causes narrowing of the space around the spinal cord and spinal nerves. When a herniated disc occurs, the space for the nerves is further diminished, and irritation of the nerve results.
Common symptoms of a herniated disc include:
• Electric Shock Pain -
Pressure on the nerve can cause abnormal sensations, commonly experienced as electric shock pains. When the compression occurs in the cervical (neck) region, the shocks go down your arms, when the compression is in the lumbar (low back) region, the shocks go down your legs.
• Tingling & Numbness -
Patients often have abnormal sensations such as tingling, numbness, or pins and needles. These symptoms may be experienced in the same region as painful electric shock sensations.
• Muscle Weakness -
Because of the nerve irritation, signals from the brain may be interrupted causing muscle weakness. Nerve irritation can also be tested by examining reflexes.
• Bowel or Bladder Problems -
These symptoms are important because it may be a sign of cauda equina syndrome, a possible condition resulting from a herniated disc.
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