A bulging or herniated disk occurs when the spongy center of a disk in the spine pushes out through a tear in the outer, rubbery portion of the disk. It can cause pain and mobility issues by putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Bulging disks are typically the result of age-related degeneration, and symptoms manifest gradually. Herniated, ruptured, or protruding disks are other terms for them.
Doctors may recommend short-term to long-term treatment for bulging disks in the back, with the goal of decompressing the spinal canal and relieving pain.
This article discusses the causes and symptoms of a bulging disk. It also looks at possible pain relief treatments and exercises.
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What is a herniated disc?
A bulging disk occurs when the inner, jelly-like portion of the disks between the bones in the spine bulges out through a tear in the outer (annulus) portion of the disk.
The spine is made up of interlocking bones called vertebrae. A spinal disk is a soft tissue structure located between each vertebra.
The disks provide support for the spine, allow movement between the vertebrae, and prevent bones from rubbing together. They also absorb shock during movement, preventing damage.
Each disk has a tough outer layer and a gel core. This gel may lose its flexibility and become rigid as it ages.
The amount of gel can also decrease with age, become compressed, and push out. When a disk bulges, it can compress or contact a nerve, causing pain.
The majority of bulging disks occur at the base of the lumbar spine. When the outer layer of the disk ruptures, a gel-like center is pushed out through a tear in the disk’s exterior wall.
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Herniated Disc Symptoms
The symptoms are determined by the severity and location of a bulging disk in the spine.
Some people may exhibit no symptoms at all. However, as the degeneration and herniation of the disks progress, the following symptoms may occur:
- Back pain that worsens with activity, such as sneezing
- spasms in the back muscles
- Leg and foot numbness and weakness
- Less mobility in the legs, knees, and ankles
- a loss of bowel and bladder control
- difficulty walking
- reduced coordination
Pain can also spread to other parts of the body, including the arms and rib cage.
If a person loses control of their bowels or bladder, they should seek immediate medical attention. This can happen when a group of lumbar and sacral nerve roots become compressed. This is known as cauda equina syndrome, and it is considered a medical emergency.
Herniated Disc Treatment
The treatment will be determined by the severity and location of the bulging disk.
Doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. For people suffering from severe pain, steroid injections may be a suitable short-term solution.
If the disk ruptures, bed rest may be required. A doctor may recommend surgery to relieve pain and improve mobility if the condition is severe.
Herniated disc injury settlements with steroid injections can also be done to assist the individual in overcoming the injury. The steroids used in the injection will aid in the healing of the injuries and the reduction of pain. Several steroids are available for the job, including methylprednisolone, cortisone, and triamcinolone.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can help with mild pain caused by a bulging disk.
Physical therapy and exercises can help a person strengthen the muscles surrounding the disk and improve mobility.
A doctor or physical therapist can help a person determine safe exercises based on the position of the bulging disk. They may suggest gentle physical activities such as yoga or walking.
Back, neck, and leg stretches are another option for pain relief that people can try at home. A person may also need to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight to relieve pressure on the vertebrae.
Using protective equipment to support the spine may also help to alleviate symptoms of a bulging disk. A person, for example, could ensure that their desk chair provides adequate lumbar support.
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Some exercises may help relieve the symptoms of a bulging disk in the back, but patients should first consult a doctor or physical therapist. Incorrect exercise can aggravate any symptoms.
If any exercise aggravates the symptoms, the person should discontinue it.
The exercises listed below may help with a lower back disk bulge:
- Find a parallel bar just slightly higher than the person.
- Grab the bar and hang your body for 30 seconds.
- Rep three more times.
- Lie face down on the floor with your hands on the ground and just above your shoulders.
- Raise your upper body while keeping your hips on the floor and your elbows supporting you.
- Hold the position for 10-15 seconds before lowering the upper body to the floor.
- Gradually increase to 30 seconds and repeat ten times.
- Begin on your hands and knees, hands directly beneath your shoulders, knees directly beneath your hips.
- While inhaling slowly, draw the chest forward and the shoulder blades down the back body. Keep your neck long and your belly hug low.
- Exhale slowly, pressing away from the floor, rounding the upper back, and gently releasing the head and neck.
- Repeat ten more times.
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- Begin by lying face down on a mat and resting your forearms on it.
- Lift the body with your core strength until your forearms and toes are resting.
- Maintain this position for 20-30 seconds.
- Let go gradually.
- 5-10 times more.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
- Grab one knee with both hands and pull it toward the chest.
- Hold for a few seconds, then slowly release and repeat with the other leg.
- Rep five more times.
- Lie on your back, with your sacrum on the floor and your knees pointing toward your chest.
- Experiment with moving your head forward until you feel a stretch across your lower back, but don’t strain.
- Rep five more times.