Bulging Discs

Physicians often find evidence of bulging discs during routine MRI scans of patients who are experiencing no symptoms. This is because, as people age, the fibrous ring that contains the discs weakens, leading to bulging, but often causing no symptoms. However, in some cases, the bulging disc puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, causing pain, weakness, tingling, or numbness. Depending on where the bulging disc occurs, these sensations can extend from the back to the hips, buttocks, legs, feet, neck, arm, and/or fingers. Almost all bulging discs occur in the low back (the lumbar area of the spine), most commonly between the L4 and L5 lumbar vertebra and L5 and S1 lumbar vertebra. While many bulging discs occur as a result of normal aging, some things—like lifting heavy objects without protecting the back, maintaining poor posture, living a sedentary lifestyle, or having an unhealthy body weight—can increase the chances of bulging discs. Bulging disc treatment typically involves rest (no heavy lifting, jumping, or bending), heat (warm compresses), pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy exercises and stretches. If typical treatment does not relieve the symptoms associated with a bulging disc, though, spinal surgery may be necessary.