A disc bulge involves the protrusion or the bulging of the jelly-like substance located in between the vertebrae. When the connective tissues that surround the spine are torn, the soft disc may protrude resulting in a bulging disc.
The bulging of the discs may result in the compression of the nerves in the area leading to affectation in the neurologic function of the person affected. The nerves are responsible for the sensory as well as the motor functioning below the level where the nerves arise. A disc bulge may then result in numbness and tingling sensations, pain as well as reduced range of motion activities. The most common locations of a disc bulge are at the 4th lumbar spine up to the 1st sacrum, which may affect the buttocks and the lower limbs.
Treating a disc bugle is synonymous to restoring and preserving the neurologic functioning of patients. The primary aim of the treatment is to reduce compression of the nerves and return the disc to its proper place within the vertebrae.
Treating Disc Bulge
The prognosis of a disc bulge depends on the severity of the condition and the prompt implementation of treatments. For those with mild conditions, the disc can be pushed back in three days. After which, the torn connective tissue begins to repair itself to hold the disc in place. The repair of the connective tissue may take a maximum of six weeks to complete. During these stages, proper supportive managements and interventions are needed to ensure that the disc returns to its normal anatomic position optimally.
Treating a disc bulge may employ various managements. Physiotherapy is the primary treatment for a disc bugle. It may involve traction, mobilization, taping, soft tissue massage, electrotherapy, dry needling, exercises to promote flexibility and core stability, hydrotherapy, biochemical correction and others. Patients are also taught on proper ergonomic positions, activity modification and gradual return to activities to ensure that patients employ supportive measures at home.
Aside from physiotherapy, other managements may be employed especially if the condition is not corrected using the above measures. Further evaluation is done using MRI or CT scans to determine the next steps in the treatment program. The use of medications is also employed for pain that does not go away with physical therapy.
Chiropractic care is an alternative remedy for a disc bulge and it also prevents the point when patients may need to undergo surgery. Using chiropractic manipulation, the vertebrae are manipulated to allow the disc to go back to its proper place. Chiropractic care is generally safe and done by certified or licensed chiropractic physicians.
The presence of numbness and pain can be a minor manifestation of a disc bugle. However, when loss of bladder and bowel control is already developing, the disc bulge can be considered a surgical emergency as it may mean the presence of cauda equina syndrome or the compression of nerve bundles at the sacrum. When these happen, surgery is the most effective measure to relieve compression on the nerve bundles. The earlier the surgery is employed, the better the prognosis of the cauda equina syndrome. Nevertheless, in mild conditions of bulging discs, surgery is not a treatment option at all provided that the patient responds with more conservative therapies.
Disc bugles commonly arise with poor body mechanics such as bending the spine and improper lifting of heavy weights. In this line, promoting proper ergonomics is the most effective means of preventing the condition.