It’s common to confuse a herniated or slipped disc with a bulging one. A herniated disc occurs when the inner, soft cartilage begins to come out of its covering by means of a crack in the latter. However, the whole disc is not affected, only the space along the crack.
A bulging disc is a common ailment that occurs when weakened discs of cartilage between the vertebrae of the spine bulge outward and into the spinal cord. This causes pain, tingling, weakness and numbness in the back, neck and other parts of the body.
The signs and symptoms of bulging discs can vary depending on the location and severity of the condition. A person with the condition may have no symptoms as long as the bulging area does not press against a nearby nerve. However, a person may experience severe pain if displaced disc material puts pressure on a spinal nerve. These symptoms may include:
- Pain – the damaged disc can cause pain radiating to the hips, buttocks, legs, and feet. In the cervical spine, pain can radiate from the neck, down the arm and to the fingers.
- Muscle spasms
Most common causes are injury, wear-and-tear, ageing, excess body weight, severe trauma, etc. Genetics may also play a role in the development of the condition, although it’s not well understood. It is said that people with a family history of degenerative spine conditions, such as a bulging disc, are more likely to get the condition.
Generally, people diagnosed with a bulging disc are recommended treatments designed to relieve symptoms, such as warm compresses, exercises, medication, and rest. If conservative treatment fails, a patient may be advised surgery. Making changes, such as losing weight and quitting smoking can have a positive effect on the treatment of bulging disc symptoms. A very mild bulging disc may be able to heal itself without medical intervention.
The non-surgical treatment also includes cortisone injections, ultrasound therapy, implantable opioid infusion pumps, topical pain patches, exercises involving stretching.