Dr. Steven Leckie: Patients often present with a ‘bulging disc.’ The intervertebral disc is the soft structure between the bones in the spine and the neck as well as in the low back. And when that disc becomes a little bit degenerated, sometimes it can bulge out slightly into the canal and that may be asymptomatic, meaning they may have a bulging disc and not have any symptoms. Sometimes it can cause back pain and sometimes it can cause nerve compression or nerve irritation, and then cause radiating the arm or leg pain.
A herniated disc is sort of the difference in grade where if the bulging disc bulges a little bit farther and some of the disc material is extruded into the spinal canal, then that herniated disc material compresses on a nerve and then causes radiating arm or leg symptoms. Bulging discs are typically treated nonsurgically with conservative managements. A herniated disc where disc material is extruded into the canal; we may try some conservative management at first and sometimes that disc material will get reabsorbed and the symptoms will go away. In most cases, patients would not need an operation, but sometimes if conservative management hasn’t worked for a couple of months, then we would do the surgery to take the pressure off that nerve and take the disc fragment out.
Here at Plymouth Bay Orthopedics, we have a full complement of options for spine treatment including on-site imaging, physical therapy, pain management, and spinal injections as well as spine surgery both minimally invasive motion preserving as well as complex.