You recently had a medical exam, and the physician explained that the pain radiating to your arms results from a bulging disc. While you are relieved to know the underlying problem, you have unanswered questions like, what is a bulging disc?
A bulging disc appears when the spongy discs separating bones in your backbone are compressed and bulge out around their circumference. The spongy discs have tough outer layers and gel in the middle. With age, the discs dehydrate, and cartilage stiffens, causing the bulge. The bulged discs can compress nerve roots and trigger arm and leg pain.
Though the condition affects people of all ages, it’s most common in older people and those who carry out strenuous physical activity for long periods. Let’s look at what causes back pain, a chiropractic fix, and how long it takes to fix it.
What’s the Difference Between a Bulging Disc and a Herniated Disc?
The spongy discs have a soft gel-like center called the nucleus pulposus surrounded by a tough elastic band called the annulus fibrosus. Think of them as shock absorbers. In a bulging disc, the nucleus penetrates the annulus causing a protrusion, but the outer annulus layer remains intact. However, in a herniated disc, the outer layer of the annulus tears, releasing the nucleus into the spinal cord, foramen, and the disc sides. Since there’s limited space in the spinal cord, the nucleus compresses nearby nerve roots resulting in pain.
To understand the difference better, think of the spinal disc as a jelly donut. In a bulging disc, the jelly donut is flattened, but the jelly is intact inside. But in a herniated disc, the pressure exerted ruptures the donut, and the outer layer is no longer intact.
The difference in the extent of damage results in a difference in symptoms.
Though both conditions result in leg and back pain, numbness, tingling, and loss of range of motion, the symptoms are common and worse with a herniated disc. Because the nucleus is better contained in a bulging disc, there are fewer chances of nerve compression and irritation.
Note: Not everyone experiences pain with bulged or herniated discs. When comparing the two, bulging discs are less likely to cause spine pain than herniated discs.
What Causes Bulging Discs?
The most common cause of bulging discs is natural ageing which leads to disc degeneration. Aside from this, other factors that leave lumbar spine discs vulnerable to bulging include:
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle and smoking
- Exerting continuous pressure and minor strain on the spine with improper lifting of heavy objects, or as a result of injury. Certain positions can quicken the wear and tear.
- Weakened back muscles leave the spongy disc vulnerable to compression over time
- Bad body posture, including poor body positioning when sitting, sleeping, exercising, and standing.
- Obesity (excess weight )
- High contact activities or sports
- Not using running shoes with the orthopedic support
- Physical trauma to the neck or vertebrae including falls, car accidents, violent, repetitive and excessive coughing, and sneezing, spontaneous events like twisting and bending
Can a Chiropractor Fix Bulging Discs?
Yes, they can.
Many people prefer chiropractic treatment for bulging discs because it’s non-invasive conservative care and doesn’t involve injections or drugs. After getting a diagnosis, you’ll work with your chiropractor to find the best method of treating your condition.
Before treatment, chiropractors verify the diagnosis through a series of questions on your medical history, tests on nerve function, physical examination, muscle tone, reflexes, numbness, and history of injury. Some also order an x-ray and a CT scan to get a clear picture of what’s happening.
The beauty of chiropractic care is its approach to healing. The chiropractor will examine your spine and not just the sore or painful spot. They’ll treat the spinal column and offer tips for a healthy weight, good posture, nutritional recommendations, and stretching exercises that’ll help you lead a pain-free life without pain medication.
The pain you are experiencing could be caused by spinal misalignment hence the thorough spinal checkup. A will use gentle and low force techniques to relieve pain by manipulating the spinal cord at and around the disc through chiropractic adjustments.
Lumbar or cervical traction machines help open the cervical spine joints to relieve pressure from the discs, allowing nerves to decompression, and the bulge to pop back into place. Chiropractic treatment for disc herniation is effective, long-lasting, and effective.
If you need a chiropractor to help ease your pain, improve your mobility and quality of life, call ProHealth Chiropractic Wellness Center on (301) 231-6550.
How Long Does it Take for a Chiropractor to Fix a Bulging Disc?
Generally, it takes a chiropractor a few weeks, usually between 6 weeks and 3 months. However, this varies between patients.
It’s crucial not to rush the healing process. While back pain may be relieved early on in the treatment process, you should allow the vertebrae to recover before you resume normal activities.
What Happens if a Bulging Disc Goes Untreated?
When left untreated, the symptoms get worse as constant pressure on nerves gradually intensifies.
When nerves are compressed, they can misfire, making pain worse along the nerve root and causing leg pain or numbness and tingling in your shoulder blades, arms, hands, legs, and other body parts. If not attended to, the symptoms worsen as the disc expands and distorts, causing other symptoms.
When the disc gets out of place, the bones rub together, causing sharp pain. Other effects include losing bladder control if the bulging discs press against the nerve connected to the bladder.
Eventually, bulging discs can lead to herniated discs that could require neurological surgeons to offer treatment options such as pain management injections, or recommend surgery such as a spinal fusion.
Let’s Help You Ease Your Pain
If you suspect you have a bulging disc, contact ProHealth Chiropractic Wellness Center. Instead of spinal surgery, we offer effective and safe spine care to relieve symptoms of bulging discs and lower back pains. The first step in our treatment process is a consultation with a professional who assesses the problem and develops a plan of action, often with x-ray guidance.
Our care is holistic, and we’ll present you with an opportunity to ease the pain and numbness you’ve been dealing with for years.