You can have a bulging disc for years and never feel the slightest twinge of pain. But as you get older, symptoms are more likely to appear — and when they do, the pain often becomes chronic and debilitating.
As a specialist in interventional pain medicine, David Lanzkowsky, MD, at Centennial Spine and Pain in Las Vegas, Nevada, has helped many patients recover from the pain caused by a bulging disc, often beginning with an epidural injection.
Bulging discs are often referred to as herniated discs, degenerated discs, and slipped discs, but they’re not all the same condition.
Discs consist of two primary parts. They have a tough, fibrous outer cover that surrounds and encloses a soft, gel-like substance in the center of the disc. This structure allows discs to support spinal movement and serve as shock absorbers, protecting the vertebra from damage.
The outer cover suffers substantial wear-and-tear over the years, leading to cracks and weak spots. A bulging disc occurs when the inner gel pushes through a damaged area and protrudes between the two adjacent vertebrae.
Bulging discs cause symptoms when they push against spinal nerves. You may experience back pain or neck pain depending on the location of the damaged disc as well as pain and tingling that travels along the nerve, radiating into your legs or arms.
Herniated discs occur when a tear in the weakened outer cover allows the inner gel to drain out of the disc. The leaking gel irritates the nerves, causing inflammation and pain. And without the gel, the disc can’t function normally.
In addition to back or neck pain and nerve-related symptoms, a herniated disc may also cause spinal instability.
A degenerated disc also occurs over time due to the combination of wear-and-tear on the cover and moisture loss. Because the inner gel is 80% water, dehydration has a big impact, often making the disc flatten.
The dysfunctional, flattened disc allows vertebrae to rub together, resulting in bone spurs, enlarged ligaments, and pinched nerves. Like a herniated disc, a flattened degenerated disc causes spinal instability, a condition that only increases your pain.
Slipped disc isn’t a medical term. Rather, it’s a common name people often use to refer to a disc that sticks out between two vertebrae. A slipped disc could mean bulging, herniated, or degenerated discs.
If your bulging disc causes ongoing back or neck pain, and the pain doesn’t improve with conventional medical care, it’s time to talk with us about an epidural steroid injection. Epidurals significantly relieve the pain of a bulging disc by:
Epidural injections are named after the epidural space, which is where we inject the medications. The epidural space, which contains fat, blood vessels, and spinal nerve roots, serves as a protective cushion between your spinal vertebrae and the spinal cord.
When we inject your treatment in the epidural space next to the pinched nerve, the medication can flow around the nerve, reaching and treating the inflamed areas.
Epidural injections contain steroids (powerful anti-inflammatory medicines) together with a local anesthetic. The anesthetic gives you immediate but short-lived pain relief. It takes a little longer for steroids to work, but once the nerve inflammation goes down, most people get significant pain relief.
Everyone responds differently to steroids, so there’s no way to know how long your results may last. Some people find their results last a few weeks, while others are free from pain for a year or longer. If your steroid injection works, you can have several over the course of a year.
Physical therapy is the key to long-lasting pain relief and improved function. You sustain less stress on the bulging disc as your exercise program strengthens your back and improves your posture.
The problem is that no one can engage in physical therapy when each movement causes pain. After you get relief from an epidural steroid injection, you can fully participate in your program and reap the benefits of physical therapy.
To learn more about bulging discs, epidural steroid injections, and other effective pain-relieving treatments, call Centennial Spine and Pain at 702-839-1203 or request an appointment online today.