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A bulging disc is one of the most common spinals conditions treated by Laser Spine Institute

Living life with a bulging disc can be uncomfortable and painful. At Laser Spine Institute we believe the first step on your journey to relief is to understand your condition. As a natural part of the aging process, the spinal discs that cushion the vertebrae begin to degenerate. As they shrink in height, an excessive amount of pressure is placed on the outer layer of the disc, causing it to bulge in some cases.

Bulging disc causes

Bulging discs can be the result of a number of different factors including genetic predisposition and traumatic injury. High-impact sports such as football or hockey involve swift, jarring movements that can cause the spinal discs to deteriorate or shift over time. Poor lifestyle choices such as excessive weight, inactivity and smoking can also facilitate the formation of bulging discs. Alcohol abuse or tobacco use has been shown to cause spinal discs to weaken and deteriorate faster over time. By far the most common cause of a bulging disc is the natural aging process. Over time, the cartilage discs between your vertebrae compress and lose fluid, allowing your discs to protrude outward.

Bulging disc diagnosis

The symptoms and pain associated with a bulging disc tend to mimic those of other back conditions, such as spinal arthritis and degenerative disc disease. So, in order to rule out these other maladies, your physician must properly assess and diagnose the source of your discomfort. To do so, he or she will start with a careful review of your medical background, followed by a series of examinations that test your flexibility, reflexes and muscle strength. If your physician believes that you may be suffering from a bulging disc but cannot provide a clear-cut diagnosis, he or she will often suggest medical imaging such as a CT scan or an MRI to provide a clearer image.

Bulging disc symptoms

Though bulging discs are generally asymptomatic, when the bulging disc material presses into the spinal cord or surrounding nerve roots, patients may experience a variety of pain and symptoms including:

  • Weakness
  • Localized pain in the area of the bulging disc
  • Radiating numbness
  • Radiating tingling
  • Inability to walk or stand for long periods of time
  • Burning sensations
  • Shooting pain
  • Radiating pain into the arms, hands, legs or feet

Living with these or other symptoms can have a devastating impact on a person’s ability to enjoy life, which is why we are committed to helping as many people as possible through our minimally invasive surgery.

Bulging disc conservative and alternative treatments

Before looking into the surgical options available, we generally recommend patients try conservative treatments. These can include physical therapy, massage or injections and are effective for many people. Most of these conservative treatments are designed to relieve pain, strengthen the back muscles and stretch the spine to reduce the painful pressure placed on the damaged disc. If a combination of these methods does not ease your pain, some patients have turned to alternative treatment options such as acupuncture or massage therapy to relieve their discomfort. It is important to note that, while these methods can be effective for some, they are not widely recognized as mainstream medicine by physicians.

Bulging disc treatment

For some patients, nonsurgical treatments prove insufficient, and surgery is left as the best viable solution.

Laser Spine Institute specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery to treat bulging discs. Performed through an incision smaller than an inch, our procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck and back surgery.^

Contact Laser Spine Institute today for more information and a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure at our St. Louis center.