Picture this scene: you’re going about your usual day-to-day activities. Suddenly, you experience pain creeping in on you in your back or lower body. You take some pain medication before bed, hoping the discomfort will subside by the morning.
However, when you wake up, the pain is worse, and other symptoms have reared their head — tightness in your back, restricted movement, and the ominous sensation of nerve pain. Before you know it, you’re in the worst back pain you’ve ever experienced.
While these symptoms (and their timing) may vary from case to case, many of you will recognize that this describes a dreaded ordeal — enduring a bulging disc!
A bulging disc is a common injury caused by the wearing down of rubbery and malleable tissue located between the vertebrae in your spinal column. This tissue, known as an intervertebral disc, can deteriorate as we age. Also known as spinal discs, these intervertebral discs prevent our vertebrae from grinding against each other, facilitate greater movement and flexibility, and act as shock absorbers.
Due to the painful symptoms of bulging discs, many patients are eager to quickly and reliably nip this problem in the bud. Chiropractic treatment for bulging discs is the leading option for those who want a safe, cost-effective solution with minimal recovery time.
Join us as we dive into bulging discs, their causes, remedies, and why chiropractic care is the preferred treatment method for many.
What is a Bulging Disc?
Healthy intervertebral discs are crucial to the integrity and proper functioning of the spinal column. These structures assist with movement, shock absorption, and load distribution throughout the entire spine.
Spinal discs comprise two layers — the annulus fibrosus and the nucleus pulposus. The former is a collagenous tough outer layer that protects the latter, which has a higher water concentration. As we age, these discs become dry, causing the nucleus pulposus to protrude beyond the annulus fibrosus. The result is a bulging disc. The protuberant disc can push toward the spinal canal, which houses the spinal cord, and even impinge on a spinal nerve.
Bulging disc complications include:
- Back pain
- Leg pain
- Leg paralysis
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Associated pain (in other areas, such as the shoulder blade)
- Impaired bowel or bladder function
If the spinal canal is stressed for a prolonged period, one’s spinal cord runs the risk of nerve damage.
Disc bulges can also be caused by sports injuries, the patient’s medical history, and genetic conditions such as spinal misalignment. A common exercise-related cause of a bulging disc is the improper lifting of weights.
Are Bulging and Herniated Discs the Same?
The terms “bulging disc,” “herniated disc,” and “slipped disc” are often used interchangeably. However, there are distinctions you need to consider, at least between bulging discs and herniated discs.
Herniated discs are typified by a breakage in the outer layer of the spinal disc, while in a bulging disc, the inner layer intrudes into the space of the outer layer without causing a breakage. As such, a herniated disc is considerably more painful than a bulging disc.
How Common are Bulging Discs?
According to an analysis of diagnostic codes from Norwegian public hospitals between 1999-2013, the incident rate of bulging or herniated discs ranged between 5-20 cases per 1,000 adult diagnoses per year. The analysis also uncovered that patients suffering from bulging or herniated discs are most likely between 30 and 50, with men predominantly affected.
What Bulging Disc Symptoms Should I Look Out For?
The symptoms of a bulging disc are diverse since the adverse effects depend on which part of the spinal canal, and subsequently the spinal cord, is impacted. Back pain is one of the most common and severe symptoms of a bulging or herniated disc.
Bulging or herniated discs can cause the following symptoms:
- Leg and other bodily pain
- Sciatic nerve impingement
- Urinary incontinence
- Numbness and weakness of various body parts
- Limited movement
- Increased pain while coughing or sneezing
How About Herniated Disc Symptoms?
Disc herniations cause similar symptoms to a bulging disc, but the symptoms associated with a disc herniation are often more severe. A herniated disc can cause debilitating back pain and, in severe cases, even paralysis.
How Do We Diagnose Bulging Discs?
Various methods are available to medical practitioners for diagnosing and assessing the severity of bulging and herniated discs.
A physical exam, in the form of a neurological examination, can help identify the location of the impacted disc and the severity of some symptoms, including weakness, slowed reactions, and numbness. Another physical exam diagnostic method is a straight leg raise test, which measures a patient’s reaction to having their extended leg raised.
A CT or MRI scan can also diagnose a herniated disc, but enduring such a scan can be highly uncomfortable for affected patients.
Can a Bulging Disc Heal Itself?
According to Dr. Allan Levi, Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, most herniated disc cases will resolve themselves without profound, long-lasting implications for the affected individual. In these situations, undertaking pain management through anti-inflammatory medications may be enough to allow patients to return to their routines.
Patients can supplement anti-inflammatory medications with steroid medication in the form of an epidural injection. However, such an injection bears risks such as anxiety, insomnia, increased pain, and even nerve damage.
Sometimes, if a bulging disc is left untreated, it can turn into a herniated disc. While this is often innocuous, severe symptoms are not unheard of. As such, non-invasive and non-surgical treatment options can be a prudent investment for future health and prosperity.
Is Chiropractic Care Good for Bulging Disc?
Since the vast majority of bulging and herniated disc cases are troublesome but not seriously threatening, these conditions are ideal candidates for conservative treatment.
A chiropractic fix for a bulging disc avoids the complications, expense, and discomfort of invasive treatments such as spinal injections, spinal fusion, chronic medication, and other surgeries and procedures.
How Will Chiropractic Treatment Options Fix My Bulging Disc?
As a manual therapy for bulging discs, chiropractic treatment relaxes muscles and releases tension, enabling pain relief and improving mobility.
Moreover, the recovery time and process for chiropractic treatment are minimal compared to invasive treatment options.
Since a chiropractic fix is non-surgical, patients can also expect significant cost savings in treating their bulging or herniated discs.
What’s the Average Recovery Time for a Bulging Disc?
A case study of a 38-year-old male patient with lumbar disc herniation found that he achieved biomechanical stability after 15 weeks of chiropractic treatment.
Additionally, a study of 20 disc herniation patients aged between 20 and 50 showed that spinal manipulation significantly reduced pain after five sessions.
A chiropractic fix addresses bulging and herniated discs in a manner that allows patients to remain engaged in their daily routine with few disruptions.
What Bulging Disc Exercises Can Speed Up My Recovery?
Patients suffering from a bulging or herniated disc can perform exercises (approved by a medical practitioner) to help relieve pain, increase mobility, and alleviate other symptoms.
We recommend the following exercises to speed up your bulging disc recovery process:
- Spinal decompression: Hanging while holding a raised bar stretches out your vertebrae and relieves your spinal discs of any pressure.
- Neck extension: Laying your body down on a bed so that your neck and head are not supported by it allows you to extend your neck in a controlled manner, improving your bulging disc symptoms.
- Planking: Planking strengthens your core muscles and encourages spinal stability, thereby increasing your resiliency to back injuries in the future by improving your overall strength.
Please note that a medical professional should approve these exercises beforehand. If any pain is experienced during these exercises, stop doing them immediately.
Treat Your Bulging Disc at Bergen Chiropractic!
At the Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, our chiropractic team, led by Dr. Gregory Doerr, follows the highest and most professional medical standards to provide superior chiropractic help. Our mission is to provide unparalleled patient care and services in a comfortable healing atmosphere. Access our contact form or call us at (201) 945-4075 to learn more about our chiropractic services! Our chiropractic offices at 532 Anderson Avenue, Cliffside Park, NJ 07010, and 62 Summit Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601, are ready to welcome you as we proudly serve New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, PA, and Baltimore, MD, areas. Also, feel free to access our blog, Facebook, and Instagram pages for more information on chiropractic treatments!
- Disc Herniation – Statpearls – NCBI Bookshelf, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441822/. Accessed 2 Nov. 2022.
- “Epidural Corticosteroid Injections.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 19 Nov. 2019, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/epidural-corticosteroid-injections. Accessed 2 Nov. 2022.
- Amin, Raj M, et al. “Lumbar Disc Herniation.” Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5685963/. Accessed 2 Nov. 2022.