The Disc is what we call the strong cartilage that is between each of the vertebrae in your spine. It consists of several strong concentric rings like you would see in a tree or a multi-ply tire. Within the Disc is the Nucleus, a jelly like substance in the middle of the disc which supports the weight above it when you stand. The Discs themselves are made of approximately 70% water, therefor, they must remain hydrated. When they dry out, the walls or rings of the disc become fragile and can form cracks. The jelly like material in the Nucleus squeezes through these cracks, causing the Disc to Bulge in the direction of the cracks. This Bulge then puts pressure on the nerves and or spinal cord at the level of the disc.
Studies have demonstrated that approximately 33% of the human populations have Bulging Discs in their spines with no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms are dependent on what level the disc bulge is. For example, in the neck, a disc bulge can cause, pain, electric shocks, numbness and tingling in the shoulders, arms and hands. In the low back, one could experience those same symptoms in their hips, legs and feet. Most people know the term “sciatica” which is typically caused by a disc bulge on the sciatic nerve in the low back and leg.
A disc bulge can be caused by a traumatic injury such as a fall or accident. Most commonly, disc bulges are the result of vertebral misalignment and poor posture and lifting habits over many years. The loss of function and alignment causes the discs to dry out (dehydration) over several years. This causes a loss of strength of the disc rings and the jelly inside begins to bulge. It is often caused by something as simple as bending to brush your teeth, lifting an object from the floor, washing dishes or simply sitting on a soft sofa with little back support.
It is important that a Disc Bulge is diagnosed correctly by a spinal specialist. Further diagnosis can be done using special imagery such as MRI or CT which allow you to see the disc material like an X Ray allows you to see the bones. Once the diagnoses is determined, special techniques can be used to restore alignment and function to the spine witch can decrease the disc bulge. If necessary, a treatment called “Decompression” can be used to directly take the pressure off the disc and allow for the nucleus to be sucked back into its normal position. This allows the disc to heal correctly. In severe cases, where the bulge becomes very big or “Herniated”, surgical intervention may be indicated but should be an absolute last resort. Most common treatment is to eliminate the symptoms using pain medication and muscle relaxants. It is our belief that mechanical correction should come first, drugs second and third, surgery ,ONLY if truly necessary.