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 because bulging discs can affect the stability of the spine and potentially cause compression of the spinal cord or a nerve root.
While this can happen at any level of the spine, including the cervical (upper) and thoracic (middle) regions, bulging discs are most common in the lumbar (lower) section of the spine.
Overview of 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, making 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 movement, 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.
Bulging disc treatment options
A lumbar bulging disc can usually be treated with a course of conservative options including rest, medication, physical therapy, spinal injections and massage. 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 USA Spine Care to learn about the benefits of our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery. Our procedures offer patients less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open spine surgery.
To find out if you are potential candidate for one of our procedures, ask a member of our team for your no-cost MRI or CT scan review.*