Bulging Disc Causes
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By Patrick Foote
There are several bulging disc causes that we should all be mindful of, but in general, the condition usually occurs due to age. Degenerative processes take effect in the spine as we age, so it comes as no surprise that the majority of bulging disc cases develop in people between the ages of 30 and 50 years old. Read on to learn more about the degenerative processes that can cause a bulging disc.
Breakdown of Intervertebral Discs
The spongy intervertebral discs of the spine consist of water and cartilaginous fibers. The annulus fibrosus, or the strong outer layer of a disc, encapsulates a gelatinous inner material called the nucleus pulposus. The degeneration of discs occurs gradually as we age, beginning with the loss of water. This dehydration can make the annulus fibrosus brittle and more susceptible to bulging and tearing. With pressure exerted from the vertebrae above and below an affected disc, the nucleus pulposus can be forced outward to the point that a portion of the disc expands – or ‘bulges’ – into the spinal column. A bulging disc sometimes causes symptoms of pain, tingling, weakness, cramping, and numbness if the disc material compresses the spinal cord or a nerve root.
Aging and the natural degeneration of the intervertebral discs are the usual suspects in the development of a bulging disc, but other risk factors can include:
— Genetic defects and a family history of spinal problems
— Traumatic injuries, such as car and sports-related accidents
— Posture and muscle imbalances
— Excessive spinal vibration when operating vehicles or heavy machinery
— Repetitive actions, such as bending, twisting, and lifting
Typically, non-invasive conservative treatments such as physical therapy, low impact exercise, pain medication, weight loss, spinal injections, and hot or cold therapy are able to sufficiently relieve pain. Some patients find it beneficial to integrate alternative treatments into their standard treatment plan, as well, such as yoga, acupuncture, or massage therapy. However, a small percentage of people experience continued discomfort, even after several weeks or months of conservative treatments.
Surgery may become an option at this point, so it is important to research available procedures and get more than one medical opinion about which surgical methods are best for you. As you conduct your research, it will be important to pay close attention to how invasive each procedure is, how long the projected recovery period will be, and what the primary risks are. In general, spine surgery for a bulging disc will fall under one of two categories: open spine surgery or minimally invasive spine surgery. Ask your doctor about the pros and cons of both types of procedures, as they utilize significantly different surgical techniques and involve varying levels of success, risks, and outcomes.
If you feel that your doctor is giving you subjective opinions about one type of surgery over the other, don’t be afraid to seek out a second or third opinion. Remember, the best way you can make an informed decision about your health is by gathering your own information and asking tough questions.
About the Author: Patrick Foote is the Director of eBusiness at Laser Spine Institute, the leader in endoscopic spine surgery. Laser Spine Institute specializes in safe and effective outpatient procedures for
and several other spinal conditions.