What are Bulging Discs, its Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options?

Bulging discs also known as disc protrusion are a common occurrence and can happen to anybody.  It mainly occurs when a disc, slowly and over a period bulges out of its normal position. They are usually painless but can cause lots of discomforts if it compresses an adjacent nerve. Almost 90% of protruding discs occur in the lumbar area of the spine. If you don’t treat this condition, the disc may continue to bulge until it ruptures, which eventually causes herniated discs.

Causes of Protruding Discs

Treating bulging discs in time may prevent them from causing you more pain. It is, therefore, important to know what led to their appearance.

These are the major causes of discs protrusion:

Degenerative Disc Disease

As we grow old, the water content in the spinal column declines. They then start to degenerate and weaken. This will make the disc vulnerable to bulges and other complications. Smoking and an inactive lifestyle can also accelerate the degeneration process.

Occupational Hazards

If the kind of work you do involves driving, bending, standing and lifting heavy objects repeatedly, you may be prone to bulging discs. It’s advisable to use your leg muscles when picking up objects. This keeps your back straight and safe from injury.

Injury and Trauma

Unlike herniated discs that are associated with immediate injury, bulging discs worsen gradually. An accident that causes a long term injury to the spinal system may lead eventually to bulges.

Bad Posture

Bad Posture

A bad posture while sitting, sleeping or standing can cause a lot of strain on your neck and back leading to bulging discs. Ensure that you keep your body aligned. Avoid an inactive lifestyle. When sleeping, put a pillow between your knees for added support. All these will keep your spine healthy.

If you have a history of bulging discs, obesity or you take part in contact sports, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of this condition. Running in shoes with no orthopedic support could put a strain on your spine leading to an increased chance of developing protruding discs.


They usually remain painless and only show signs when they eventually start causing problems to other parts of the body. Below are some symptoms of a protruding disc:

  • If you experience pain in your hands, fingers, shoulders, neck, and arms, you could be having a protruding disc. Your spine cord could be severely damaged if you have trouble walking, lose your motor skills or feel sudden heaviness in your legs.
  • Lower back pains and muscle spasms is a clear sign of a protruding disc in the lumbar region. The pain usually spreads to the feet, buttocks, and thighs. The protruding disc may pressure the sciatic nerve which eventually causes sciatica. You will always feel the pain in one leg and not the other.
  • You could experience pain in your upper back that radiates to the stomach or chest. This pain could also be an indication of gastrointestinal, heart or lung failure. It is, therefore, necessary to distinguish the cause.
  • A loss of bladder control is a sure sign of a protruding disc compressing the cauda equine nerve bundle.

Treatment of Protruding Discs

Once you are certain that a protruding disc could be the cause of the symptoms you are experiencing, it is important to seek professional help. Your doctor will do a physical exam to confirm your suspicion. You may also do a CT scan or MRI before undergoing treatment.

Depending on the severity and underlying causes of your condition, your doctor may recommend conservative interventions that may reduce or eliminate the disc related complications. Over the counter anti inflammatory medication, physical therapy, heating pads, lifestyle changes and professional massage may help in dealing with protruding discs.

If your condition is severe or is in a sensitive position, it may necessitate minimal invasive surgery. This procedure is more advanced and uses state of the art technology to remove and correct spinal difficulties.  Unlike surgery, it requires minor recovery time. Chances of scarring, excessive blood loss and trauma are also very minimal. It is advisable to take part in moderate physical activities that will help in strengthening your muscles. You doctor should also recommend low impact exercises that are appropriate for people with protruding discs such as restorative yoga, aerobics or swimming. Don’t strain yourself and if you feel you feel any pain and discomfort, stop the exercise and rest immediately.

Bulging disc is a serious condition that should not be left untreated.  Once you suspect that you could be suffering from protruding discs, visit a qualified doctor and let him advise you on the appropriate intervention. Don’t let the condition degenerate to herniated disc that could cause serious and more severe pain to your body. Ensure that you maintain an active lifestyle to keep your neck bones and muscles from further degenerating and weakening after treatment.

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