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 Bulging/Herniated Disc

Overview

People often confuse a bulging disc with a herniated disc, as it is common to hear the two names being interchanged synonymously. Although these two issues are similar, one is actually different than the other. A bulging disc, (contained) is when one of the soft, jelly-like discs separating each individual vertebra in your spine is damaged and bulges, causing pressure on one of the tangent vertebra. This causes pressure on spinal nerves, sometimes causing severe pain or numbness throughout different parts of the body. A herniated disc (non-contained) is the result of a bulge that breaks through the thin layer of cartilage protecting the jelly-like disc, much like a water balloon. Bulging and herniated discs can happen anywhere in the spine, but most often occur in the lower back.

What Causes a Bulging Disc or Herniated Disc?

Bulging and herniated discs are caused by the deterioration or drying out of the disc over time. As we age, our discs wear down, causing them to allow less shock absorption and flexibility. This causes the thin layer of cartilage to weaken, enhancing the probability of a bulging or herniated disc.

What are the Symptoms of a Bulging Disc or Herniated Disc?

Depending on how the disc is pressing against, bulging and herniated discs can cause severe pain to no pain at all. Along with pain, a bulging and herniated disc can cause numbness. If the pain or numbness is in the buttocks or legs, then the damage is most likely in the lower spine. This is, more often than not, Sciatica, which is the most common symptom a bulging or herniated disc. If the symptoms are in the arms, shoulders, or neck, the bulging or herniated discs are more than likely in the upper spine and neck area. Although both bulging and herniated discs are likely to cause pain and numbness, many people that have had these disc disorders have experienced no symptoms at all.

How is a Bulging Disc or Herniated Disc Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of a bulging or herniated disc is typically done through a simple examination. However, if necessary, doctors may require a CT scan or MRI to determine the problem in the spine.

How is a Bulging Disc or Herniated Disc Treated?

Bulging and herniated discs rarely require invasive surgery. Typically, rest and relaxation is the best way to recover from severe cases of these disc disorders. Doctors usually recommend heating and cooling pads to reduce swelling and pain, and also a number of different daily exercises to help with flexibility and recovery. Also, there are a number of different medicines to help with the pain and swelling, so be sure to ask your doctor what is available and safe for you to take.

Terminology

Normal situation and spinal disc herniation in cervical vertebrae.

Some of the terms commonly used to describe the condition include herniated discprolapsed discruptured disc and slipped disc. Other phenomena that are closely related include disc protrusion, pinched nerves, sciatica, disc disease, disc degeneration, degenerative disc disease, and black disc.

The popular term slipped disc is a misnomer, as the intervertebral discs are tightly sandwiched between two vertebrae to which they are attached, and cannot actually "slip", or even get out of place. The disc is actually grown together with the adjacent vertebrae and can be squeezed, stretched and twisted, all in small degrees. It can also be torn, ripped, herniated, and degenerated, but it cannot "slip". Some authors consider that the term "slipped disc" is harmful, as it leads to an incorrect idea of what has occurred and thus of the likely outcome. However, one vertebral body can slip relative to an adjacent vertebral body. This is called spondylolisthesis and can damage the disc between the two vertebrae.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of a herniated disc can vary depending on the location of the herniation and the types of soft tissue that become involved. They can range from little or no pain if the disc is the only tissue injured, to severe and unrelenting neck or low back pain that will radiate into the regions served by affected nerve roots that are irritated or impinged by the herniated material. Often, herniated discs are not diagnosed immediately, as the patients come with undefined pains in the thighs, knees, or feet. Other symptoms may include sensory changes such as numbness, tingling, muscular weakness, paralysis, paresthesia, and affection of reflexes. If the herniated disc is in the lumbar region the patient may also experience sciatica due to irritation of one of the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve. Patients with L3 or L5 herniated disc (usually affecting the knee and leg) also have a high chance of experiencing decreased sexual performance ( erectile dysfunction ) due to the tissue involved with the penile muscle tissue. If the extruded nucleus pulposus material doesn't press on the p tissues or muscles, patients may not experience any reduced sexual function symptoms. Unlike a pulsating pain or pain that comes and goes, which can be caused by muscle spasm, pain from a herniated disc is usually continuous or at least is continuous in a specific position of the body.

It is possible to have a herniated disc without any pain or noticeable symptoms, depending on its location. If the extruded nucleus pulposus material doesn't press on soft tissues or nerves, it may not cause any symptoms. A small-sample study examining the cervical spine in symptom-free volunteers has found focal disc protrusions in 50% of participants, which suggests that a considerable part of the population can have focal herniated discs in their cervical region that do not cause noticeable symptoms.

Typically, symptoms are experienced only on one side of the body. If the prolapse is very large and presses on the spinal cord or the cauda equina in the lumbar region, affection of both sides of the body may occur, often with serious consequences. Compression of the cauda equina can cause permanent nerve damage or paralysis. The nerve damage can result in loss of bowel and bladder control as well as sexual dysfunction. This disorder is called cauda equina syndrome.

Cause

Disc herniations can result from general wear and tear, such as when performing jobs that require constant sitting and squatting. However, herniations often result from jobs that require lifting. Traumatic injury to lumbar discs commonly occurs when lifting while bent at the waist, rather than lifting with the legs while the back is straight. Minor back pain and chronic back tiredness are indicators of general wear and tear that make one susceptible to herniation on the occurrence of a traumatic event, such as bending to pick up a pencil or falling. When the spine is straight, such as in standing or lying down, internal pressure is equalized on all parts of the discs. While sitting or bending to lift, internal pressure on a disc can move from 17 psi (lying down) to over 300 psi (lifting with a rounded back).[citation needed]

Herniation of the contents of the disc into the spinal canal often occurs when the anterior side (stomach side) of the disc is compressed while sitting or bending forward, and the contents (nucleus pulposus) get pressed against the tightly stretched and thinned membrane (annulus fibrosis) on the posterior side (back side) of the disc. The combination of membrane thinning from stretching and increased internal pressure (200 to 300 psi) results in the rupture of the confining membrane. The jelly-like contents of the disc then move into the spinal canal, pressing against the spinal nerves, thus producing intense and usually disabling pain and other symptoms.[citation needed]

There is also a strong genetic component. Mutation in genes coding for proteins involved in the regulation of the extracellular matrix, such as MMP2 and THBS2, has been demonstrated to contribute to lumbar disc herniation.

Narrowed space between L5 and S1 vertebrae, indicating probable prolapsed intervertebral disc - a classic picture. MRI scan of cervical disc herniation between fifth and sixth cervical vertebral bodies. Note that herniation between sixth and seventh cervical vertebral bodies is most common. MRI scan of cervical disc herniation between sixth and seventh cervical vertebral bodies. MRI scan of large herniation (on the right) of the disc between the L4-L5 vertebrae. MRI Scan of lumbar disc herniation between fourth and fifth lumbar vertebral bodies.

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100 Facts About The Human Body (part 4)

100 Facts About The Human Body (part IV) Muscles and bones cont... You use 200 muscles to take one step. Depending on how you divide up muscle groups, just to take a single step you use somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 muscles. That’s a lot of work for the muscles considering most of us take about 10,000 steps a day. The tooth is the only part of the human body that can’t repair itself. If you’ve ever chipped a tooth you know just how sadly true this one is. The outer layer of the tooth is enamel which is not a living tissue. Since it’s not alive, it can’t repair itself, leaving your dentist to do the work instead. It takes twice as long to lose new muscle if you stop working out than it did to gain it. Lazy people out there shouldn’t use this as motivation to not work out, however. It’s relatively easy to build new muscle tissue and get your muscles in shape, so if anything, this fact should be motivation to get off the couch and get moving. Bone is stronger than some steel. This doesn’t mean your bones can’t break of course, as they are much less dense than steel. Bone has been found to have a tensile strength of 20,000 psi while steel is much higher at 70,000 psi. Steel is much heavier than bone, however, and pound for pound bone is the stronger material. The feet account for one quarter of all the human body’s bones . You may not give your feet much thought but they are home to more bones than any other part of your body. How many? Of the two hundred or so bones in the body, the feet contain a whopping 52 of them. Microscopic Level Much of what takes place in our bodies happens at a level that we simply can’t see with the naked eye. These facts will show you that sometimes that might be for the best. About 32 million bacteria call every inch of your skin home. Germaphobes don’t need to worry however, as a majority of these are entirely harmless and some are even helpful in maintaining a healthy body. Humans shed and regrow outer skin cells about every 27 days. Skin protects your delicate internal organs from the elements and as such, dries and flakes off completely about once a month so that it can maintain its strength. Chances are that last month’s skin is still hanging around your house in the form of the dust on your bookshelf or under the couch. Three hundred million cells die in the human body every minute. While that sounds like a lot, it’s really just a small fraction of the cells that are in the human body. Estimates have placed the total number of cells in the body at 10-50 trillion so you can afford to lose a few hundred million without a hitch. Humans shed about 600,000 particles of skin every hour. You may not think much about losing skin if yours isn’t dry or flaky or peeling from a sunburn, but your skin is constantly renewing itself and shedding dead cells. Every day an adult body produces 300 billion new cells. Your body not only needs energy to keep your organs up and running but also to constantly repair and build new cells to form the building blocks of your body itself. Every tongue print is unique. If you’re planning on committing a crime, don’t think you’ll get away with leaving a tongue print behind. Each tongue is different and yours could be unique enough to finger you as the culprit. Your body has enough iron in it to make a nail 3 inches long. Anyone who has ever tasted blood knows that it has a slightly metallic taste. This is due to the high levels of iron in the blood. If you were to take all of this iron out of the body, you’d have enough to make a small nail and very severe anemia. The most common blood type in the world is Type O. Blood banks find it valuable as it can be given to those with both type A and B blood. The rarest blood type, A-H or Bombay blood due to the location of its discovery, has been found in less than hundred people since it was discovered. Human lips have a reddish color because of the great concentration of tiny capillaries just below the skin. The blood in these capillaries is normally highly oxygenated and therefore quite red. This explains why the lips appear pale when a person is anemic or has lost a great deal of blood. It also explains why the lips turn blue in very cold weather. Cold causes the capillaries to constrict, and the blood loses oxygen and changes to a darker color. Miscellaneous Here are a few things you might not have known about all different parts of your anatomy. The colder the room you sleep in, the better the chances are that you’ll have a bad dream. It isn’t entirely clear to scientists why this is the case, but if you are opposed to having nightmares you might want to keep yourself a little toastier at night. Tears and mucus contain an enzyme (lysozyme) that breaks down the cell wall of many bacteria. This is to your advantage, as the mucus that lines your nose and throat, as well as the tears that wet your eyes are helping to prevent bacteria from infecting those areas and making you sick. Your body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of water to a boil. If you’ve seen the Matrix you are aware of the energy potentially generated by the human body. Our bodies expend a large amount of calories keeping us at a steady 98.6 degrees, enough to boil water or even cook pasta. Your ears secrete more earwax when you are afraid than when you aren’t. The chemicals and hormones released when you are afraid could be having unseen effects on your body in the form of earwax. Studies have suggested that fear causes the ears to produce more of the sticky substance, though the reasons are not yet clear. It is not possible to tickle yourself. Even the most ticklish among us do not have the ability to tickle ourselves. The reason behind this is that your brain predicts the tickle from information it already has, like how your fingers are moving. Because it knows and can feel where the tickle is coming from, your brain doesn’t respond in the same way as it would if someone else was doing the tickling. The width of your armspan stretched out is the length of your whole body. While not exact down to the last millimeter, your armspan is a pretty good estimator of your height. Humans are the only animals to produce emotional tears. In the animal world, humans are the biggest crybabies, being the only animals who cry because they’ve had a bad day, lost a loved one, or just don’t feel good. Right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people do. This doesn’t have a genetic basis, but is largely due to the fact that a majority of the machines and tools we use on a daily basis are designed for those who are right handed, making them somewhat dangerous for lefties to use and resulting in thousands of accidents and deaths each year. Women burn fat more slowly than men, by a rate of about 50 calories a day. Most men have a much easier time burning fat than women. Women, because of their reproductive role, generally require a higher basic body fat proportion than men, and as a result their bodies don’t get rid of excess fat at the same rate as men. Koalas and primates are the only animals with unique fingerprints. Humans, apes and koalas are unique in the animal kingdom due to the tiny prints on the fingers of their hands. Studies on primates have suggested that even cloned individuals have unique finger prints. The indentation in the middle of the area between the nose and the upper lip has a name. It is called the philtrum. Scientists have yet to figure out what purpose this indentation serves, though the ancient Greeks thought it to be one of the most erogenous places on the body. Source: icantseeyou.typepad.com


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