A bulging disc is exactly what it sounds like; a disc that protrudes out from its normal size and shape, so it presses on a nerve, causing pain and restricting your mobility. The experienced doctors at the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona specialize in physical medicine and minimally invasive procedures that effectively relieve spinal pain by treating the source of the problem. To learn about your treatment options for a bulging disc, call one of the offices throughout Tucson, Oro Valley, Green Valley, Safford, Benson and Willcox, Arizona, or request an appointment online.
The discs located between each vertebra are designed to allow spinal movement, absorb shock, and help stabilize your spine. To do their job, they have a strong outer covering that encloses a gel-like material in the center of the disc.
Over the years, the outer covering weakens due to degeneration and normal wear and tear. As spinal movement puts pressure on the disc, the inner gel pushes against the weakened area, creating a bulge along the edge of the over covering. That’s when you have a bulging disc.
Even though the inner material stays confined inside the disc, the bulge can press against nearby nerves. As the bulging disc compresses the nerves, you’ll develop pain and other symptoms.
A bulging disc may develop in any of the discs along your neck and back. However, this problem most often occurs in your lower back where the spine supports more weight. A bulging disc may cause any of these symptoms:
As the disc flattens due to bulging, you may develop spinal instability.
The first line of treatment for a bulging disc includes conservative options like exercises to strengthen the spine and maintain motion, as well as stretching to help relieve pressure on the affected disc. Your doctor may also recommend heat or massage therapy.
When your pain doesn’t improve, or if it’s so severe you can’t participate in physical therapy, your doctor at the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona can recommend a minimally invasive treatment that relieves your pain by blocking nerve signals. When a nerve is pinched, it transmits a message to your brain, then your brain interprets the nerve signal as pain. If the message is blocked and never reaches the brain, you won’t feel the pain.
One possible treatment for a bulging disc is an epidural steroid injection. Using fluoroscopic imaging to see the needle and guide its placement, your doctor precisely injects pain-relieving medications — a local anesthetic and steroids — into the epidural space of your spine.
As the medication flows around the nerves affected by the bulging disc, the anesthetic quickly blocks the pain signals, while the steroid takes a few days to relieve your pain by reducing inflammation.
If you develop ongoing or severe back or neck pain, call the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona or request an appointment online.