The spine is a complex structure in the body that serves many essential functions including central body support and nervous system protection. The 33 bones that make up the spine are divided into three major sections:
- Cervical: consists of seven vertebrae that protect the brain stem, support the skull, and warrants a wide variety of head movement.
- Thoracic: Underneath the cervical region of the spine are 12 thoracic vertebrae that form the upper and mid back. These segments of the spine protect many vital organs and provide central support for the entire body.
- Lumbar: The five lower vertebrae are much larger than the others and support the greatest portion of the body’s weight.
Your spine enables flexible motion, but more importantly, protects your spinal cord which is a part of your central nervous system. The central nervous system is a pathway of nerves that enables various body movements as well as sensations.
Discs act as cushions between the vertebrae of the spine. A common metaphor used to illustrate intervertebral discs is providing a comparison to miniature jelly donuts, the exact size to fit in between the vertebrae. If you were to press down on the donut, the sides would bulge out and the jelly inside would press against them. This is what happens when you have a bulging disc. If you press down hard enough so that the liquid is released, it becomes a herniated disc.
You may not experience any pain with a bulging disc until it fully protrudes from the outer portion and becomes a herniated disc. The initial signs of a bulging disc occurs when disc material contacts the surrounding tissues and nerves which can include:
- Tingling or pain in the fingers, hands, arms, neck, or shoulders
- Pain in the feet, thighs, lower spine, and buttocks
- Difficulty walking or pain while lifting
Bulging discs often come with older age and deteriorate over time. Other risk factors include poor posture, heavy lifting over prolonged periods of time, repetitive lifting and twisting, obesity, and smoking.
When a bulging disc goes untreated it has the potential to rupture which is referred to as a herniated disc. Compared to bulging disc, a herniated disc is more likely to cause pain because it protrudes farther, irritating nerve roots. Both disc disorders share similar symptoms, but herninations are more extreme.
Here are herniated disc symptoms by region of the spine according to Miami Neuroscience Center.
- Cervical: Pain extending down the arm to the fingertips, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the shoulder, arm or hand, difficulty walking or maintaining balance or problems gripping or handling things.
- Thoracic: Pain from the lower neck to the mid-back, chest pain, headaches when lying down, difficulty walking, tingling, numbness, or burning sensation in the legs, weakness in the legs, or problems with the bladder or bowels.
- Lumbar: Pain in your lower back, buttocks, hamstring, calf, or feet, numbness or tingling in the affected leg, shooting pain down your leg, weakened leg muscles, burning or sharp pain in your leg that worsens when standing for long periods of time, difficulty controlling the bladder or bowels, or difficulty walking.
Bulging and Herniated discs can be easily diagnosed by a chiropractor through a physical exam and history. Additionally, the chiropractor may take digital x-rays or order an MRI study if necessary. Chiropractic treatment is natural and non-invasive and is often preferred by many patients.
After diagnosis, your chiropractor will take a holistic approach and look at your entire spine to determine what is responsible for the added stress and strain on the disc. The chiropractor will get to the root of your problem and create a treatment plan. Spine decompression is an effective conservative treatment option for many intervertebral disc bulges herniations.
Auburn Chiropractic Associates is here to take the load off your back. Through chiropractic adjustments and physical modalities, we will work as a team to relieve your painful symptoms. Chiropractic care for bulging and herniated discs is safe and effective. Please contact us today at 334-826-2225 to make an appointment.