What are the Different Types of Disc Problems?

The discs in your spine are shock-absorbing rings that allow enough flexibility and movement, while still protecting your spine. Each disc has a dense wall around the inner fluid component which adjusts to the pressure placed on your spine. 

There are a few terms that you may here about disc problems that mean different things but may be used interchangeably. It’s important for your doctor to provide an accurate diagnosis to recommend the best course of treatment for your back or neck pain.

Bulging Disc

A bulging disc is an injury of the spine causing the inner soft part of the disc to bulge out. This can occur in the lower, middle, or upper back, or neck. You may have a bulging disc injury if back pain gets worse when sitting, bending forward, or lifting something.

A bulging disc can be treated conservatively by treating the inflammation and pain, maintaining postures to help the disc heal, and doing certain exercises to help joint alignment and muscle strength. 

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc is when the disc bulge is so significant that the soft, center part of the disc comes out of the hard, outer section of the disc. Herniated discs are most common in the lumbar spine, the lower part of your spine. The main symptom of a herniated disc is pain or soreness felt directly over the injured disc. If the herniated disc presses against the spinal cord, it can cause muscle weakness, numbness, or tinging, increased reflexes in the legs, changes in bladder or bowel function, or even paralysis. 

Conservative treatment for a herniated disc can include doing physical therapy, using ice and heat therapy, taking NSAIDs, or getting epidural injections. If non-surgical treatment is not effective for treating symptoms of a herniated disc, a microdiscectomy surgery is usually recommended. This procedure removed the herniated part of the disc to relieve pressure on the nerve root so it can begin to heal.

Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve refers to a herniated disc that is pinching or irritating a nearby nerve. This can cause nerve root pain, which may radiate to other parts of the body. Sciatica nerve pain can be caused by a herniated disc, and will result in pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness, is one side of the buttock or leg.

The treatment for a pinched nerve depends on what is cause the nerve pain. In addition to a herniated disc, it could also be due to a bone spur, degenerative disc disease, spondylolysis, or spondylolisthesis. 

Contact the Spine & Scoliosis Specialists at 336.333.6306 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Cohen, Dr. Torrealba, and Dr. Saullo.