Bulging Disc – Why it is Common Among Athletes

A bulging disc condition occurs when a spinal disc becomes weakened and loses shape. This can sometimes cause bulging outward into the spinal canal. Each disc has a soft center (nucleus populous) surrounded by a firm outer border (annulus fibrosus). This construction allows the discs to serve as effective shock absorbers for the surrounding vertebrae during physical activity. But what does a bulging disc mean for an athlete?

While a bulging disc does not always cause pain or require treatment, it can cause problems. Symptoms occur if it takes up too much space in the spinal canal and creates pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root. This can sometimes lead to pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling sensations. 

Are Athletes More Susceptible to Bulging Disc

Bugling discs are common among both athletes and nonathletes alike. However, athletes are generally in better physical condition than members of the general public. They may be even less prone to developing conditions like a bulging disc – and more likely to heal quickly when they do occur. 

One reason is the enhanced muscle strength of a typical athlete. If the muscles that provide support and stability to the spine are strong, they can assume more of the body’s weight load as well as some of the stress that would otherwise shift onto the spine, thus reducing the likelihood of injury. 

With that said, it still might seem as though athletes develop spinal conditions more often than non-athletes. But that could simply be because we hear more about them. When a bulging disc causes symptoms, the condition could potentially sideline an athlete for weeks, months, or even an entire season. 

In the world of professional sports, this ideal situation will cause lengthy discussions among coaches, commentators, and fans. 

Of course, anyone participating in intensive physical activity, such as sports involving repetitive running, jumping, twisting, turning, and physical contact can potentially stress the spine. In addition to sudden injuries, spinal stress’s effects can accumulate over time. This can sometimes lead to conditions like a bulging disc. 

What You Can Do If Symptoms Occur

Given time, a bulging disc may heal on its own. In the interim, any associated symptoms can usually be managed with conservative treatments like rest, pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, cold compresses, physical therapy epidural steroid injections, and muscle relaxants. 

Four to six weeks of conservative treatment is recommended before bulging disc surgery is considered. For maximum effectiveness, a treatment plan should be fully customized to meet a patient’s specific needs. 

Surgery is generally a last resort form of treatment when conservative treatment proves ineffective. The surgeons at BEST Health System are more than capable of performing minimally invasive outpatient surgery to address a bulging disc when necessary. Our board-certified surgeons, Dr. Girton and Dr. Abbott specialize in minimally invasive techniques. This means they use less than the one-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques. Both of which help avoid a lengthy recovery period. 

If you’re currently exploring your surgical options, you may want to find out if you’re a candidate for one of our procedures. With the addition of a newly installed MRI machine and other imaging and diagnostics techniques, we can help determine if you’re a candidate. 

To learn more, contact us today!