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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 3)

100 Facts About The Human Body (Part III) Sex and Reproduction cont... Every human spent about half an hour as a single cell. All life has to begin somewhere, and even the largest humans spent a short part of their lives as a single celled organism when sperm and egg cells first combine. Shortly afterward, the cells begin rapidly dividing and begin forming the components of a tiny embryo. Most men have erections every hour to hour and a half during sleep. Most people’s bodies and minds are much more active when they’re sleeping than they think. The combination of blood circulation and testosterone production can cause erections during sleep and they’re often a normal and necessary part of REM sleep. Senses The primary means by which we interact with the world around us is through our senses. Here are some interesting facts about these five sensory abilities. After eating too much, your hearing is less sharp. If you’re heading to a concert or a musical after a big meal you may be doing yourself a disservice. Try eating a smaller meal if you need to keep your hearing pitch perfect. About one third of the human race has 20-20 vision. Glasses and contact wearers are hardly alone in a world where two thirds of the population have less than perfect vision. The amount of people with perfect vision decreases further as they age. If saliva cannot dissolve something, you cannot taste it. In order for foods, or anything else, to have a taste, chemicals from the substance must be dissolved by saliva. If you don’t believe it, try drying off your tongue before tasting something. Women are born better smellers than men and remain better smellers over life. Studies have shown that women are more able to correctly pinpoint just what a smell is. Women were better able to identify citrus, vanilla, cinnamon and coffee smells. While women are overall better smellers, there is an unfortunate 2% of the population with no sense of smell at all. Your nose can remember 50,000 different scents. While a bloodhound’s nose may be a million times more sensitive than a human’s, that doesn’t mean that the human sense of smell is useless. Humans can identify a wide variety of scents and many are strongly tied to memories. Even small noises cause the pupils of the eyes to dilate. It is believed that this is why surgeons, watchmakers and others who perform delicate manual operations are so bothered by uninvited noise. The sound causes their pupils to change focus and blur their vision, making it harder to do their job well. Everyone has a unique smell, except for identical twins. Newborns are able to recognize the smell of their mothers and many of us can pinpoint the smell of our significant others and those we are close to. Part of that smell is determined by genetics, but it’s also largely do to environment, diet and personal hygiene products that create a unique chemistry for each person. Aging and Death From the very young to the very old, aging is a necessary and unavoidable part of life. Learn about the process with these interesting, if somewhat strange facts. The ashes of a cremated person average about 9 pounds. A big part of what gives the human body weight is the water trapped in our cells. Once cremated, that water and a majority of our tissues are destroyed, leaving little behind. Nails and hair do not continue to grow after we die. They do appear longer when we die, however, as the skin dehydrates and pulls back from the nail beds and scalp. By the age of 60, most people will have lost about half their taste buds. Perhaps you shouldn’t trust your grandma’s cooking as much as you do. Older individuals tend to lose their ability to taste, and many find that they need much more intense flavoring in order to be able to fully appreciate a dish. Your eyes are always the same size from birth but your nose and ears never stop growing. When babies look up at you with those big eyes, they’re the same size that they’ll be carrying around in their bodies for the rest of their lives. Their ears and nose, however, will grow throughout their lives and research has shown that growth peaks in seven year cycles. By 60 years of age, 60-percent of men and 40-percent of women will snore. If you’ve ever been kept awake by a snoring loved one you know the sound can be deafening. Normal snores average around 60 decibels, the noise level of normal speech, intense snores can reach more than 80 decibels, the approximate level caused by a jackhammer breaking up concrete. A baby’s head is one-quarter of it’s total length, but by age 25 will only be one-eighth of its total length. As it turns out, our adorably oversized baby heads won’t change size as drastically as the rest of our body. The legs and torso will lengthen, but the head won’t get much longer. Disease and Injury Most of us will get injured or sick at some point in our lives. Here are some facts on how the human body reacts to the stresses and dangers from the outside world. Monday is the day of the week when the risk of heart attack is greatest. Yet another reason to loathe Mondays! A ten year study in Scotland found that 20% more people die of heart attacks on Mondays than any other day of the week. Researchers theorize that it’s a combination of too much fun over the weekend with the stress of going back to work that causes the increase. Humans can make do longer without food than sleep. While you might feel better prepared to stay up all night partying than to give up eating, that feeling will be relatively short lived. Provided there is water, the average human could survive a month to two months without food depending on their body fat and other factors. Sleep deprived people, however, start experiencing radical personality and psychological changes after only a few sleepless days. The longest recorded time anyone has ever gone without sleep is 11 days, at the end of which the experimenter was awake, but stumbled over words, hallucinated and frequently forgot what he was doing. A simple, moderately severe sunburn damages the blood vessels extensively. How extensively? Studies have shown that it can take four to fifteen months for them to return to their normal condition. Consider that the next time you’re feeling too lazy to apply sunscreen before heading outside. Over 90% of diseases are caused or complicated by stress. That high stress job you have could be doing more than just wearing you down each day. It could also be increasing your chances of having a variety of serious medical conditions like depression, high blood pressure and heart disease. A human head remains conscious for about 15 to 20 seconds after it is been decapitated. While it might be gross to think about, the blood in the head may be enough to keep someone alive and conscious for a few seconds after the head has been separated from the body, though reports as to the accuracy of this are widely varying. Muscles and Bones Muscles and Bones provide the framework for our bodies and allow us to jump, run or just lie on the couch. Here are a few facts to ponder the next time you’re lying around. It takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown. Unless you’re trying to give your face a bit of a workout, smiling is a much easier option for most of us. Anyone who’s ever scowled, squinted or frowned for a long period of time knows how it tires out the face which doesn’t do a thing to improve your mood. Babies are born with 300 bones, but by adulthood the number is reduced to 206. The reason for this is that many of the bones of children are composed of smaller component bones that are not yet fused like those in the skull. This makes it easier for the baby to pass through the birth canal. The bones harden and fuse as the children grow. We are about 1 cm taller in the morning than in the evening. The cartilage between our bones gets compressed by standing, sitting and other daily activities as the day goes on, making us just a little shorter at the end of the day than at the beginning. The strongest muscle in the human body is the tongue. While you may not be able to bench press much with your tongue, it is in fact the strongest muscle in your body in proportion to its size. If you think about it, every time you eat, swallow or talk you use your tongue, ensuring it gets quite a workout throughout the day. The hardest bone in the human body is the jawbone. The next time someone suggests you take it on the chin, you might be well advised to take their advice as the jawbone is one of the most durable and hard to break bones in the body. To be continued... Source: icantseeyou.typepad.com


Note: The information on this Web site is provided as general health guidelines and may not be applicable to your particular health condition. Your individual health status and any required medical treatments can only be properly addressed by a professional healthcare provider of your choice. Remember: There is no adequate substitution for a personal consultation with your physician. Neither BPF Specialty Hospital, or any of their affiliates, nor any contributors shall have any liability for the content or any errors or omissions in the information provided by this Web site.