The intervertebral disks are the cushions between the bones in the spine. They have a tough, fibrous outer layer and a gel-like inner layer, which help the spine move correctly. A bulging disk occurs when the outer part of the disk becomes weak, and the disk extends out past its normal borders within the joint structure. This is part of the normal aging process, and usually does not cause pain. If, however, the disk spreads out far enough to put pressure on a nearby nerve, the condition can cause pain.
In the lower back, a bulging disk can cause pain in the hips, buttocks, legs, and feet. In the upper back, pain can radiate from the neck, to the shoulders, down the arm and to the fingers. You may also experience tingling, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, or numbness. Some physical activities, such as bending, sneezing, and coughing may make the symptoms worse.
Your doctor will carry out a physical exam to try to determine the source of your pain. He is likely to order an MRI to be able to visualize the disk.
The primary cause of a bulging disk is the weakening of the outer layer of the intervertebral disk due to age. However, lifting heavy objects, being above a healthy weight, and living a sedentary lifestyle can all increase the chances of a painful bulging disk, and other back problems.
Treatment options & care
Cold, then hot compresses