Disc Bulge

A disc bulge, also known as a herniated disc, occurs then small fissures or cracks develop at the annulus fibrosus of discs, as a result of a shrinking of the nucleus of the disc.

A disc bulge is also known as a bulging disc or herniated disc. A disc bulge occurs when the fibrous outer layer of an intervertebral disc becomes worn or weakened to the point, that it bulges outwards. The outer layer of the disc is known as the annulus fibrosus. As the wall of the disc becomes weak, the pressure caused by the volume of materials on the inside of the pushes this weakened wall outwards. The condition is known as a bulging disc, or a disc bulge, when the annulus has become thin enough to be pushed outwards where the wall has become worn out.

When the wall becomes torn completely, the material of the nucleus pulposus, at the core of the disc, may ooze through the wall of the annulus and into different parts of the spine. We may or may not experience back pain and associated symptoms (referred pain, numbness, burning, tingling, stiffness) as a result of this a degenerated disc. Typically, the cause of moderate to severe back pain as a result of a disc bulge or herniation is when the changes to the disc affect the spinal canal or nerve root. The discs themselves are located between two vertebral bodies at the front of the spine, and the spinal canal and nerve roots exiting the spinal canal are located at the back of the spine, behind the discs. If the bulging wall or ejected disc material passing through a herniated disc were to press against one of the nerve roots, the results could be significant pain and disability.

In the past, it was though that we typically felt pain as a result of a disc bulge only when the bordering nerve roots were affected. Until recently, it was though that the discs themselves were not supplied with pain sensitive nerve fibers. Recently however, researchers has discovered that nerve fibers are present on the annulus. This discovery was important, because it shown that the discs could be a direct cause of pain. Discovers were made of pain-specific nerve terminals, called C nerve fibers, within the layers of the annulus fibrosus. Researchers also found more of these C nerve fibers in discs in degenerated discs. This increasing proliferation of C nerve fibers in degenerated discs may make these the body more sensitive to these changes, and we may experience may pain as a result.

As we get older and approach middle age, the volume of materials, particularly water, on the inside of the disc decreases, and the inside of the disc shrinks. The materials on the inside of the disc make up the nucleus fibrosus. The annulus starts to become burdened and vulnerable, as it is no longer cushioned by the nucleus pulposus. This vulnerability to the outer wall of the disc may cause fissures or cracks to develop. These fissures or cracks may be a direct cause of back pain, if they are located at or near, these C nerve fibers. A person may or may not experience back pain as a result of a disc bulge. Conversely, a person may or not experience lower back pain as a result of tears in the annulus fibrosus.