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Is It Possible for Bulging Discs to Rupture?


2.3 - Can-a-Bulging-Disc-Burst

Herniated spinal discs do not always fully herniate. Instead, they sometimes bulge, referring to an abnormal shape that compresses or irritates a nearby nerve to some extent. In some cases, a bulging disc may produce few or no symptoms at all. Other times, the bulging disc may be at risk for bursting, or rupturing. This article takes a closer look at whether a bulging disc can burst or rupture.

Symptoms of a Ruptured Disc

Oftentimes, a disc that bursts produces severe or instantly noticeable lower back pain. You may also experience other symptoms when a spinal disc ruptures. These symptoms could include:

• Pain that extends to your legs
• Numbness and tingling sensations
• Discomfort that extends to your feet
• Sciatica symptoms you already have that suddenly get worse

Reasons for Spinal Disc Ruptures

Over time, spinal discs become less spongy, which makes them more susceptible to herniation. This is one of the top reasons spinal discs eventually burst if they are already bulging. As spinal discs become less spongy, the gelatinous material inside can dry up. If this happens, the disc is more likely to burst. Spinal discs that are already bulging can also be affected by inflamed nerves from the irritation or compression caused by the disc protrusion. The resulting inflammation can weaken a disc that is already susceptible to bursting.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Typically, a diagnosis is made with an MRI or CT scan if the doctor suspects a
bulging disc has burst. An X-ray is not usually performed, since it does not show soft tissue damage. Treatment usually involves an assortment of nonsurgical options before surgery is considered. The only exception is if you are experiencing severe pain because of the rupture. Even if this is the case, efforts may be made to ease your discomfort with medication first. You may also be advised to participate in a customized physical therapy program.

If surgery is necessary or recommended, the most common option is discectomy or microdiscectomy surgery. The goal with either procedure is to relieve nerve compression, which is achieved by removing disc material. However, efforts are made to preserve the disc if possible. A microdiscectomy is a less invasive version of a discectomy in which only a small incision is made. Otherwise, both procedures are essentially the same.

Preventing Disc Ruptures

Protect your spinal discs, especially if you already have one or two that are bulging and susceptible to herniation, by taking the following steps:

• Watching your posture
• Eating spine-friendly foods like fresh fruits and vegetables
• Getting regular exercise
• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Drinking plenty of water

It is also a good idea to have regular spinal checkups to determine if you have any issues with discs that can be proactively treated with medication or therapy. This is a step you may want to consider if you have a family history of spinal disc problems.

A bulging disc can burst to become a herniated disc. If you have a herniated disc that is not responding to conservative treatment, a
back surgery procedure called a discectomy may be recommended. Although this is generally a very successful procedure, having a large hole in the outer ring of the disc more than doubles the risk of needing another operation. A new treatment, Barricaid, closes this hole, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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