Bulging disc pain is one of the most common issues “Top Doc 2015-19” Dr. Nikesh Seth treats at Integrated Pain Consultants. Spinal discs are a type of fibrocartilage tissue located between every vertebrae. Normal discs are about 33% the size of their adjacent vertebrae, and they’re meant to maximize flexibility and serve as shock absorbers. A disc is made up of an outer layer (the annulus fibrosus) and inner layer (nucleus pulposus). However, with damaged discs the tougher outer layer is weakened and bulges out. In severe cases, the casing of the outer layer can even break, letting the softer inner layer leak. These become herniated discs and not bulging discs.
Bulging discs can press the nerves and spinal cord, which is the primary cause of bulging disc pain. The type of pain a bulging disc causes is usually sciatica, although it may also be called radiculopathy. Most people have some kind of back pain in their life, but only 5% of men and 2.5% of women will have radiculopathy. This pain might be felt in the back as well as the thigh, groin, buttocks, and even the calves or foot. It’s most often described as an electric shock, burning, or stabbing sensation. Numbness and tingling can also be present, and pain tends to increase when a person bends forward. However, some people experience virtually no symptoms at all.
Most people experience bulging or herniated discs between their 30s and 50s. Men are twice as likely to experience damaged discs, and disc damage risk is increased with repeated twisting and lifting. A higher BMI also increases risks, and there’s also a genetic component to bulging disc injuries. If you have or suspect a damaged disc, it’s important to get immediate professional help in order to properly treat and heal the disc—otherwise, a bulging disc can become a much more painful and challenging herniated disc.
There are treatments available beyond medication management and surgery. The first step in treating pain is identifying the cause and source. Tools like Accelerated Recovery Performance (ARP) Wave therapy uses a proprietary approach to neurotherapy that determines why specific pain exists. Alternative therapies such as CBD and sympathetic nerve blocks can prevent or delay more invasive, high-risk treatments. To learn more and schedule your appointment at Integrated Pain Consultants, call 480-626-2552.