Bulging or herniated discs can cause a variety of symptoms — including almost none at all — making a definitive diagnosis imperative. The location of symptoms differs from person to person, depending upon the location of the problem disc. Herniated discs occur in the lower back (the lumbar portion of the spine), as well as mid-back (thoracic) and neck (cervical spine).
What Causes Bulging or Herniated Discs?
Most bulging or herniated discs come about as a result of degeneration, simple wear and tear over time or accidents. As you age, the discs in your spine will lose some of their fluid content, making them less flexible. This makes discs more susceptible to tearing or rupturing. Though age is a top factor in causing herniated discs, that doesn’t mean they are an issue for only the elderly. In fact, herniated discs are most common among those 35 to 45 years old.
Herniated or bulging discs often occur from strain or twisting. This can be the result of degeneration, but herniated or bulging discs can also be caused solely by injury. Lifting a heavy object, or twisting your back while carrying a heavy object, can tear a disc. Traumatic events like a fall or a blow to the spine can also cause a herniated disc.
Occupation is thus another risk factor for bulging or herniated discs. People who work in jobs that demand physical labor, including bending, lifting, pulling, pushing, and twisting, are more likely to experience a herniated disc. This kind of work accelerates the normal degeneration that you experience as your spine ages.
Last, but not insignificantly, weight is another factor that can increase the risk of suffering a herniated or bulging disc. If you are overweight, your excess body weight can increase the strain on the discs in your spine. This can lead to a herniated or bulging disc.
What are the Symptoms of Herniated or Bulging Discs?
Though uncommon, it is possible to have a bulging or herniated disc without being aware of the condition. Advanced imaging like MRI or CT scan are typically used to visualize the herniated disc.
The location of the pain from a bulging disc depends on the location of the disc. This does not mean that the pain feels like it’s coming from the disc, however; more often, it’s experienced as pain via the nerves that are found at the level of the disc herniation. A bulging or herniated disc in the lumbar spine is often experienced as intense pain in the legs or buttocks. If a disc in the cervical spine is the problem, pain is usually felt in the arms or shoulders. In either case, moving your back will often cause pain to radiate through your extremities. Muscle weakness in the arms or legs can also occur, as well as tingling or numbness.
If you are experiencing these kinds of symptoms, you need to be aware that the bulging and herniated discs are treatable, and you can get your pain-free life back. Contact the Spine Institute Northwest today to begin your journey with an accurate diagnosis.