Having a bulging disc – also known as a herniated or ruptured vertebral disc – is not rare. This condition occurs when one of the spinal discs gets out of alignment and part of it bulges out. It can be very painful.
The soft discs are situated between the vertebrae, and stop the vertebral bones from rubbing against each other, functioning to give the spine flexibility. They also have the function of cushioning the spinal nerves located around the spinal cord.
The discs tend to become brittle and stiff with age, just like most other parts of our bodies. Disc deterioration often begins around thirty years of age. On average, disc flexibility is reduced considerably by the time we reach the age of 50 or 60. Because of the lower level of flexibility, discs can more easily incur damage. Generally speaking, many people end up with bulging disc as they get older.
What makes a bulging disc painful is the fact that when a disc is pushed out of alignment, the nerves surrounding the area can get pinched. This condition can be worsened by other factors, and especially if someone already suffers from spinal stenosis, which causes the space around the spinal cord and nerves to narrow. This can happen without the person even knowing what is going on until they feel pain.
The disc can become herniated as the result of an accident or a fall, or even if they lift something heavy. Then the pain is likely to come on suddenly and severely. In other cases it may happen gradually over time, as the spine is strained over and over. In these cases, the pain is not as severe and only comes on occasionally, often more and more often until treatment is established.
People that suffer from a bulging disc will often experience pain which is similar in intensity to an electric shock and comes from compressing spinal nerves. The pain can be felt running down your arms if the damage is in the upper vertebrae near your neck, or down your legs if the damaged disc is in the lower back. You may also have tingling or numbness in your arms or legs, and general muscle weakness.
A herniated or bulging disc can also cause localized numbness in the genital area, and pose a problem during urination and during bowel movements. This is a medical emergency and you should get help right away.
Surgery can correct this condition, but in most cases, rest is all that’s needed to correct the problem and heal the disc. However, it is important to seek medical advice with any back problem. Your doctor needs to determine that nothing worse is going on, and it he decides that your problem is a bulging disc, he can prescribe pain medication to make you more comfortable.
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