A lumbar bulging disc is the most common type of disc pathology discovered via diagnostic testing. A bulging disc describes a condition in which the disc structure is distorted beyond its typical shape and size, in a symmetrical or asymmetrical pattern, but is still intact and structurally sound.
Disc bulges in the lumbar and lumbosacral spinal regions are incredibly common and generally considered to be mostly asymptomatic as part of the normal spinal aging processes. In some cases, bulges can be problematic and enact herniated disc symptoms in the back, buttocks or legs. When lower limb pain occurs, the expression is usually called sciatica.
This discussion centers on explaining bulging spinal discs in the lower back region.
The lumbar spine is also known as the lower back. This region endures widespread degeneration as part of its normal lifespan, since the discs and vertebrae in this area are in constant motion and are required to perform repeatedly under stress. Intervertebral bulges can occur to due a variety of back injuries, but most simply happen through the normal process of spinal aging.
Bulging discs in the lower back usually occur in the locations which is most affected by degenerative disc disease and other varieties of herniations. The discs located at L4/L5 and L5/S1 are particularly known for being degenerated in virtually all adults to one degree or another by the age of 30. It must be said that disc degeneration, although not inherently problematic unto itself, is a major contributor to both bulges and herniations.
Lumbar bulges, or any disc bulges, for that matter, are usually innocent and coincidental to any back pain suffered. In rare instances, intervertebral disc bulges can enact symptomatic spinal stenosis by imparting a huge mass effect on the thecal sac or more commonly, by compressing the actual spinal cord.
Most thecal sac impingement by a bulging disc is not an issue for concern, unless other stenotic changes also exist concurrently at the same spinal level, such as in the case of severe ligamentum flavum hypertrophy.
Bulges can also enact pinched nerves when they completely obliterate the neuroforaminal space. Herniated discs which pinch a nerve root are rather rare. The rate of misdiagnosis is very high and this is reflected in the poor curative results of most treatment options.
When any neurological symptoms are suspected or diagnosed, always be sure to consult with a qualified neurologist for clinical correlation of the structural findings with the actual symptomatic expression to minimize the chance for incorrect diagnosis.
Many readers write in about the size of their lumbar bulges, stating they have a 6 mm bulge or a 4 mm bulge. Remember, it is not the size of the bulge which means anything at all in most cases, but the neurological consequences that the bulge enacts.
A large posterolateral bulge into the lateral recess is unlikely to elicit any pain at all, unless a nerve root is compressed in the process. However a much smaller focal bulge into a congenitally narrowed spinal canal may compress the spinal cord and create devastating effects.
Remember to understand the facts about herniated discs and not simply be swept away by often unimportant details, such as bulge size. If you need help with a bulging disc condition in the lower back, talk to your doctor and be sure to get at least one second opinion before agreeing to any drastic therapy option.