The bulging disc tends to be the most common cause of back pain. There are 2 main reasons that bulging discs occur in the spine:
- The annulus (tire wall) starts to break down because of micro tears. The jelly (air) starts to push out the fibers where the weakness is present, resulting in a bulging disc. The nucleus (jelly) is healthy but the annulus is weak.
- The nucleus (jelly) dries out. (The tire runs out of air, a flat tire). The annulus bulges out…. The annulus is healthy and jelly is dried out!
Symptoms from a bulging disc are caused by a weak spot in a disc that swells and puts direct pressure on nerve roots extending from the spinal cord. The pressure will then send pain signals & interrupt signals throughout the nerve causing tingling and numbness. Bulging disc symptoms will begin where the pressure occurs and radiates to where the affected nerve root travels.
- A bulging disc in the neck symptoms will include numbness, pain, weakness, and tingling that branches out from the shoulders, arms, chest, hands and fingers.
- A bulging disc in the mid back or thoracic area of the spine symptoms will include pain in the upper back that radiates to the chest or stomach area or upper thigh. Bulging disc are not as common here but it may lead doctors or patients to believe there are problems with the heart, gastrointestinal area, or lungs.
- A bulging disc in the lower back or lumbar area symptoms will include pain that travels from the lower back to the buttocks, legs, and feet. It can also cause weakness, tingling, numbness in the legs as well as muscle spasms.
- A bulging disc located in the lower back also might lead to the development of sciatica.
Bulging disc symptoms can vary widely from person to person but the main factors are the locations of the discs. Pain caused by a bulging disc usually worsens when you are active and better when you are resting. Little things like bending forward, coughing, sitting or even driving can make the pain worse. This is because the pain gets worse you are putting more pressure on the nerve by moving.
Typically you will not feel the symptoms of a bulging disc until there is a significant degeneration, herniation, or tear. The most common cause is age due to our spine weakening. At the Illinois Back Institute we use Functional Disc Rehydration to treat the pain caused by a bulging disc. The treatment works to relieving the pressure off the disc by allowing nutrients to flow back into the disc while we also strengthen the spine.