A bulging disc is always compared to a herniated disc. In case of a bulging disc, it simply bulges outside the space it normally occupies between your vertebrae, but it doesn’t rupture, whereas in case of a herniated disc, a crack occurs in the outer layer of the disc. A bulging disc affects a much larger part of the disc than a herniated disc. While it is more common to have a bulging disc than a herniated disc, a herniated disc is more likely cause symptoms. It’s possible to have a bulging disc and be asymptomatic, which means not feeling any symptoms at all.
Bulging disc can pass without any symptoms if it is not pressing on any nerves, i.e. asymptomatic. If the bulging disc is pressing on a spinal nerve or the spinal cord, symptoms are similar to those of a herniated disc, such as:
- Back or neck pain
- Shooting Pain radiating into legs or arms on one or both sides
- Numbness and/or tingling in arms and legs
- Muscle weakness and/or spasms in arms and legs
- In some severe cases, changes in bladder or bowel function, progressive weakness or paralysis may occur. Consult your doctor immediately if this is ever experienced.
- Normal aging
- Obesity/ unhealthy life styles
Screening and Diagnosis
As always, complete medical history and physical examination is key in the diagnosis of a bulging disc. Also, CT or MRI may be ordered for further evaluation. X-ray is not always recommended in this case, as they can’t show a bulging disc, but they can show a general idea of how much spine degeneration is present.
Non-surgical options for facet joint pain include:
- Physical therapy
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, and some cases pain medication.
- Epidural steroid Injection, which can help decrease the inflammation of compressed spinal nerves, while the bulging disc goes back into place under proper management and physical therapy.
Related Research Articles
Title: Transforaminal Epidural Injections in Chronic Lumbar Disc Herniation: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Active-Control Trial
Authors: Laxmaiah Manchikanti, MD, Kimberly A. Cash, RT, Vidyasagar Pampati, MSc, and Frank J.E. Falco, MD
Journal: Pain Physician