What is a Degenerative Bulging Disc?

What is a Bulging Disc?

A degenerative bulging disc describes a spinal disc that has weakened and deteriorated. As a result of the natural aging process, the disc is now protruding outward into the spinal canal.  Many people develop some degree of this condition as they age. This Is commonly due to the factors surrounding the natural aging process such as weight gain, weakened core muscles, and dehydration. 

Development of a Bulging Disc

Bulging discs are often linked to degenerative disc disease, a condition common with aging. As we age, the wear and tear from a lifetime of physical activity causes certain components of the spine to deteriorate. 

Age-related deterioration threatens the integrity of spinal discs through a series of ways. For example, discs are made from a connective tissue containing water. As a person gets older, this connective tissue dehydrates and loses its elasticity and strength. Daily activity places pressure on the disc and continues to weaken the disc’s elastic outer layer. As a consequence of lost flexibility, the disc’s core material pushes outward, stretching the boundary of the disc.

Eventually, the disc flattens and bulges outward, protruding into the spinal canal and possibly pinching a nearby nerve root.

Bulging Disc Symptoms

Severe bulging disc symptoms can have a serious impact on the body. They can prevent you from doing tasks that were once simple, such as walking, biking, or running. The main cause of these issues is a result of the loss of pain signals along the affected nerves. This disrupts the transmission of sensory information, resulting in discomfort throughout the body. 

A few common symptoms include:

  • Radiating pain in the legs or arms
  • Localized pain in the neck or back
  • Muscle weakness or spasms
  • Numbness or tingling sensations

Many patients with a bulging disc will not experience any symptoms. However, if you do experience severe symptoms, you should contact your primary care physician sooner rather than later. 

Treatment Options

When a bulging disc pinches a nerve, symptoms of pain, numbness and discomfort can develop. For many people, conservative, nonsurgical treatments can help alleviate the pain of a degenerative bulging disc.

Common conservative treatments include:

  • Participating in regular, low-impact aerobic exercise in the form of walking or swimming
  • Performing specific exercises to strengthen back and abdominal muscles
  • Practicing good posture while walking, standing or sitting at the computer
  • Stretching to maximize flexibility
  • Practicing proper body mechanics when performing any task
  • Participating in physical therapy sessions with a licensed therapist

However, if you develop a degenerative bulging disc that is pressing on a spinal nerve and causing severe pain, more aggressive medical intervention, such as spinal injections or surgery, could be required.

Although traditional methods are common, new technology allows for minimally invasive surgery which requires a less-than-one-inch incision. This is 8x smaller than incisions used in traditional open-back surgery. Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer.