Bulging Disc in the Neck
Bulging Disc in Neck – In the spinal column there are discs between each vertebra. These discs are made up of soft gelatinous material (the nucleus pulposus) that acts as cushioning, or shock absorption, for the spine. They allow a certain amount of flexibility to the spine’s movements without the risk of harder bony elements grinding against each other and causing damage. Each disc has a tougher outer fibrous shell (the annulus fibrosus) which is there to keep the disc in shape. If these discs themselves become damaged, or misshapen, or if there is weakening and stretching of the outer fibers, the jelly-like center can protrude from its desired location between vertebrae and put pressure on the spinal cord and its nerve fibers. A severe bulging of a disc in the cervical region often results in the tearing of the outer layers of the disc also known as a herniated disc in neck and involves the disc pushing into the spinal canal, which may result in spinal stenosis – the narrowing of the spinal canal.
An annular tear is a severe herniated disc in which the nucleus pulposus leaks out of the disc into the body. It is also known as a ruptured disc. Ruptured disc are often the result of trauma as in accidents, sports injuries or motor vehicle crashes. Ruptured disc are usually not painful unless the tear happens where the disc attaches to the vertebrae.
Long Term Effects of a Bulging Disc in Neck
If left untreated, a bulging disc in the neck which is compressing a nerve for a long period of time can cause permanent nerve damage, muscle atrophy and reduce overall physical activity which can lead to other health problems. In many cases a bulging disc in the neck will heal on its own with proper rest and therapy. It’s best to seek bulging disc in neck treatment advice from a medical professional who has experience healing this condition.
Bulging Disc in Neck Causes
Causes of Bulging Discs
Stress injuries such as car accidents, or over-vigorous exercise can cause bulging disc in the neck or herniation of the discs. Arthritis and degenerative spine conditions may also contribute to long-term problems. Herniation is usually a result of acute stress on the spine, although it can be due to longer term damage and a bulging disc that suddenly reaches breaking point and herniates. Healthy disc cartilage is spongy and malleable, unlike unhealthy discs which become dry and brittle, breaking and herniating easily upon acute stress. Consistently poor posture, bad footwear and poor sleeping habits can all contribute to stress and degeneration of the spine and associated connective tissue. As discs become flattened, brittle and stressed the circulation and delivery of nutrients to the tissue becomes restricted, further exacerbating the problem
Symptoms of Bulging Disc in the Neck
Bulging discs in the neck are often asymptomatic, showing up only on MRI scans or x-rays. They can, if the bulging is impacting on a nerve or blood vessels, cause several types of pain, including: weakness, paresthesia, numbness, referred, and radiating pain. Herniated or bulging discs in other regions of the spine will have similar symptoms involving the lower extremities. The cervical and lumbar regions of the spine are the most common problem areas for discs. Pain may be intermittent, varying with the degree of inflammation, or causing problems only when a particular posture or movement is made. Taking a note of the nature of the symptoms, timing, and severity, can assist the doctor in making a diagnosis of a bulging disc. Bulging disk symptoms may come and go and then return later and in most cases have varying degrees of pain intensity depending on the degree of herniation or bulge. A proper diagnosis, as discussed in the next section is the proper way to identify the severity of the injury.
Bulging Disc in the Neck Diagnosis
Often a bulging neck disc is found during investigation of other back and neck conditions, through an MRI scan or x-ray. It may not have troubled the patient prior to discovery and may require no immediate action after its discovery if the patient remains symptom-free and the disc does not herniate. Some people, however, do suffer symptoms of a bulging disc and this is what precipitates the trip to their physician.
Having a thorough list of symptoms and their onset and severity will allow the doctor to draw more precise conclusions about what may be happening in the patient’s body prior to checking the scans. It may be that inflammation due to a different condition is exacerbating the bulging disc and that controlling the inflammation reduces or removes the disc problem without the need for surgery or further treatment.
Treatment Options for Bulging Disc in the Neck
Physicians tend to first recommend a conservative treatments for bulging discs in the neck. It is sensible to restrict lifting and allow the body adequate recovery time and rest. Heat and ice therapy to stimulate circulation and reduce inflammation is a common suggestion as is anti-inflammatory medication and perhaps even cortisone injections. If the injury is mild to moderate the bulging disc often will heal on its own in 6 – 8 weeks, as long as the patient allows for proper rest.
Another available treatment option is non-surgical spinal disc decompression, although this is generally used for herniated discs, it may also alleviate bulging disc problems before they become symptomatic. There are many devices that provide neck pain relief through the use of spinal decompression. Unfortunately several of these do not work for the upper spine and cervical area, rather they are lumbar extenders only.