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Bulging disc signs and potential treatments described for Cincinnati patients by Laser Spine Institute

Patients experiencing bulging disc pain may find themselves wondering what options are available to treat their symptoms. Before reviewing bulging disc surgeries, it may be beneficial to understand the condition and symptoms associated with bulging discs. A bulging disc occurs when the outer layer of the disc is forced out of its normal boundary and pushes into the spinal canal or surrounding nerve roots. This is most commonly due to the natural aging process of spinal degeneration — the process by which the spine naturally weakens due to years of activity and other factors.

Bulging disc causes

The most commonly cited cause of a bulging disc is aging. Due to years of stress placed on the spine, the spine’s components — including the discs — become dryer and less elastic, making them more prone to damage. Several factors can also cause this degeneration to happen at a faster rate, including:

  • Playing high-impact sports
  • Tobacco use
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Poor posture
  • Spinal trauma
  • Working a job that requires repetitive twisting or bending

Bulging disc diagnosis

If you are experiencing bulging disc symptoms that persist for several days, schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she will help you arrive at a definitive diagnosis by listening to you describe your symptoms, discussing your medical history and personal risk factors and by conducting a physical examination. Additionally, a CT scan, MRI or X-ray may be ordered to confirm your bulging disc diagnosis and to find the exact location of the disc that is causing your symptoms.

Bulging disc symptoms

Bulging discs are most commonly found in the lumbar (lower) area of the spine. This is ultimately due to the amount of weight and stress placed on this area of the spine over time. Not all bulging discs cause pain, but many are accompanied with symptoms that can be debilitating over a long period of time. Bulging disc symptoms may include:

  • Pain. Pain can develop locally or in the extremities. This can occur when the bulging disc causes a shift in the outer disc material, resulting in the disc pressing against a nerve root or the spinal cord.
  • Numbness. When bulging disc material presses on surrounding nerves you may experience loss of sensation in other areas of the body.
  • Weakness. If disc material shifts from its general location between the vertebrae, you may experience weakness due to nerve compression.
  • Tingling. Tingling or pins-and-needles feelings may occur in the hands or feet.

Bulging disc treatments

When you first seek treatment for a bulging disc, you will likely be prescribed an initial round of conservative treatments aimed at managing your pain. Though the specific options prescribed will depend on factors such as your lifestyle and overall health, commonly used conservative treatment for a bulging disc includes:

  • Pain medication
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Heat/cold therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Massage

Some people also choose to undergo alternative methods of treatment that are outside of mainstream medicine. Many of these patients have found relief through the use of massage, acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation and yoga. However, you should always consult your physician before beginning any new treatments.

When to consider surgery for a bulging disc

Those suffering from chronic, lasting pain due to bulging discs who have fully explored conservative methods may be referred to a specialist to consider surgery. Laser Spine Institute’s Cincinnati surgery center offers minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that treats symptoms caused by a bulging disc, without the large incision, hospital-associated costs and lengthy recovery time associated with traditional procedures.^

The procedures performed by our team of board-certified surgeons+ include:

  • Discectomy — removal of the damaged portion of a herniated or bulging disc material that is causing nerve compression
  • Anterior cervical discectomy fusion (ACDF) — removal of a damaged disc in the cervical (upper) spine and fuses the vertebrae around it to stabilize the area
  • Cervical disc replacement — substitutes an unhealthy disc in with an artificial disc
  • Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) — insertion of a bone graft and spacers into the disc space to provide stability to the lumbar (lower) spine

Contact Laser Spine Institute today for more information and to receive a no-cost review of your most recent MRI or CT scan* to see if you may be a candidate for one of these procedures at our Cincinnati center.