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How Does A Disc Herniate Or Bulge

Woman with back painIf you have been diagnosed with a bulging or herniated disc, you may wonder how it happened. It can be stressful and confusing to be told that there is something wrong with your spinal discs. However, it is important to understand what is occurring in your back when you have a bulging or herniated disc, as this will help your recovery.

As a chiropractor in the Chesapeake region of Virginia for more than two decades, I am an expert indiagnosing and treating bulging and herniated discs. In this article, I will discuss the most common causes of these spinal conditions, and how to treat them.

What Are The Main Functions of the Spinal Discs?

The main function of spinal discs is to separate the vertebral bones of your spine. The discs support your spine by moving along with the vertebra and providing cushioning. The discs have two different parts:

  • Annulus fibrosus: This outer layer of the disc is made of multiple layers of curved fibers which surround and protect the inner nucleus pulposus.
  • Nucleus pulposus:This is the inner part of the disc. It is elastic and shock-absorbent. It has a jelly-like consistency and ismade of water and collagen fibers for support.

What Is A Bulging Disc?

A bulging disc (sometimes called a prolapsed disc) has a distorted shape. Instead of staying between the vertebrae, it protrudes into spinal spaces occupied by the spinal cord and nerve roots. When it is simply bulging and not herniated, the disc itself remains intact.

You may have more than one bulging disc at the same time, as it is common for multiple discs to bulge.

What Is A Herniated Disc?

Herniated discs are also called slipped discs, extruded discs, or ruptured discs.

Unlike a bulging disc, a herniated disc is not intact. When the disc herniates, the annulus fibrosus tears, and the nucleus pulposus spills out. This puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots, leading to uncomfortable symptoms.

Sometimes, part of a herniated disc can tear off into a smaller piece. These are known as free fragments or sequestered discs and can be very painful.

Do Bulging or Herniated Discs Get Progressively Worse?

Herniated and bulging discs can get progressively worse, and normally move through several distinct stages:

  • Degeneration: In this stage, the nucleus pulposus begins to dry out and weaken due to age-related changes. The disc becomes less shock-absorbent during this stage but is not bulging or herniated.
  • Prolapse: In this stage, the shape or position of the disc begins to change. The disc starts to bulge, which can start to impede the spinal cord or nerves.
  • Extrusion: In this stage, herniation begins. The jelly in the nucleus pulposus begins to break through the wall of the annulus fibrosus.
  • Sequestration: In this final stage, the nucleus pulposus completely breaks through the annulus fibrosus and moves outside the disc.

In many cases, a bulging or herniated disc can heal on its own, although this process may take weeks. The conditions may also lead to a variety of symptoms, which can be painful.

Symptoms of A Bulging or Herniated Disc

Although some people have a bulging or herniated disc with no symptoms, others will have a burning or stinging pain which may radiate into the legs and feet. In more severe cases, weakness or sensation changes may develop.

What Causes A Bulging Or Herniated Disc?

The main causes of bulging or herniated discs is injury, especially car accidents or trauma. In a car accident, the force of the crash causes pressure on your spine and discs, which can cause a bulge or herniation. Degeneration – or wear and tear on the spine – also increases the chance that a disc will herniate or bulge.

Additionalrisk factors that can make a bulging or herniated disc more likely include:

  • Family history of bulging or herniated discs
  • Male sex
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Repetitive movements involving bending or twisting the lower back
  • Sitting or standing for extended periods without changing position
  • Having an inactive lifestyle
  • Smoking, which reduces blood flow to the spine

How Do You Treat A Bulging Or Herniated Disc?

It can take weeks for a bulging or herniated disc to heal. However, this can be a long time to wait if you are suffering and in pain from your disc. The North American Spine Society’s guidelines on spinal care support chiropractic care as an option for people suffering from pain due to a herniated lumbar disc. Other remedies include steroid injections into the spine or disc removal.

Caring For Bulging Or Herniated Discs at Precision Spinal Care

As a certifiedNUCCA chiropractor andspine management physician, I work closely with you to develop a treatment plan that takes into account theroot cause of your condition, including any event that triggered your bulging or herniated disc.

To accomplish this,during your first visit, I will do a thorough examination. Afterward, I will go over my evaluation with you in detail. Together, we will set reasonable expectations and milestones for recovery and further evaluation. We will also put together a treatment plan that meets your care needs. I will reevaluate you to make sure you are meeting your goals.

My experience and expertise in spinal biomechanics allow me to competently and safely address your back issues. I am a trauma and hospital-qualifiedspine management physician. I have credentials in MRI spine interpretation, spinal biomechanical engineering, and orthopedic testing through the Academy of Chiropractic. I am also a fellow in Spinal Biomechanics and Trauma which is recognized through the SUNY Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine.

If we determine that chiropractic is not the best solution for your needs, I will recommend the type of specialist who is most appropriate for you. I may also recommend other specialists that can be used in conjunction with chiropractic care to help you meet your goals.

We understand that you need to explore all your options when you are trying to treat your pain and heal your spine. At Precision Spinal Care, we are happy to help you determine the best way to address your specific needs and discuss all the options with you and your family.

Call our office at (757) 382-5555 to speak to the doctor or set up a consultation. You can alsoset up an appointment through our webpage.

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