A bulging disc is a condition where one of the discs in the spinal column begins to bulge out of its normal position. This can be a painful condition that is disruptive to your quality of life. Bulging discs can affect the stability of the spine. As well as, potentially cause compression of the spinal cord or a nerve root. This can happen at any level of the spine, including the cervical (upper) and thoracic (middle) regions. However, bulging discs are most common in the lumbar (lower) sections of the spine.
Overview of the Lumbar Bulging Discs
The discs cushion the vertebrae in the spine, allowing the spine to bend and flex. The lumbar spine consists of five vertebrae (although some people have six), with a disc between each of them. Over time and due to age-related changes, these discs can begin to lose water and protein content. This makes them less elastic and more vulnerable to bulging and herniation.
The lumbar discs are particularly vulnerable to bulging and other conditions for the following reasons:
- The lumbar spine supports the majority of the body’s weight
- Unlike the thoracic spine that is fixed to the ribcage, the lumbar spine is flexible to allow for movement
- The lumbar discs absorb tremendous pressure from repetitive twisting and bending movements, including sports and work
Although the cervical spine is also a common source of bulging discs, the lumbar spine is the most common due to the above factors.
Your Treatment Options
A bulging lumbar disc can usually be treated with a course of conservative options. These options including rest, medication, physical therapy, spinal injections, and massage therapy. Lifestyle changes to improve disc health such as weight management, posture improvement, and quitting smoking may also be recommended if necessary.
If you and your doctor decide that conservative treatments have been fully explored without bringing the relief necessary to comfortably engage in everyday activities, surgery may become an option. Patients being recommended for back surgery to treat a bulging disc should contact BEST Health System to learn about the benefits of minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery. Our procedures, performed by our board-certified surgeons, Dr. Girton and Dr. Abbott, offer patients less risk of complications and a shorter recovery time than traditional open spine surgery.
To find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, contact us today.