Bulging disc systoms
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit
The intervertebral disc serves two functions: it connects two vertebra together; it provides a shock absorption.
The disc is located between two vertebra and looks like a jelly “doughnut” made of an outer fibrous layer (called the 'annulus' which means "ring") while containing a jelly-like substance in the middle (called the 'nucleus').
As a person gets older, the intervertebral disc loses its water content. As this happens, the disc compresses. This leads to deterioration of the tough outer ring allowing the nucleus, or the inside of the ring, to bulge out. This is called a bulging disc.
When a disc bulges beyond its normal position nerve irritation may occur. This is referred to as a "pinched nerve" or sciatica. Varying degrees of disc bulging may occur ranging from a small " bulge" (which is usually not a significant issue) to "large herniation" or disc "extrusion", which can be serious.
The symptoms of lumbar disc bulge vary depending on where the disc has bulged, and what nerve root it is pushing on. Symptoms may include:
• intermittent or continuous back pain (this may be made worse by moving, coughing, sneezing, or standing for long periods of time)
• spasm of the back muscles
• sciatica - pain that starts near the back or buttock and travels down the leg to the calf or into the foot.
• muscle weakness in the leg
• numbness in the leg or foot
• decreased reflexes at the knee or ankle
• changes in bladder or bowel function
Pain follows a nerve root distribution and can travel to the hip, the knee, the calf or the ankle and the foot. If there are no severe neurological symptoms (weakness, abnormal reflexes), conservative management is recommended and is usually successful. Surgical treatment is only considered in rare cases of intractable pain and/or progressive severe neurological symptoms.
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