A Simple Guide to Disc Bulges and Prolapses

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A simple guide to lumbar discs. Explains what a disc is, what a normal disc looks like and what happens when a disc bulges or prolapses.

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  • Thanks for the post. The majority of spinal disc herniation cases occur in lumbar region (95% in L4-L5 or L5-S1). The second most common site is the cervical region (C5-C6, C6-C7). The thoracic region accounts for only 0.15% to 4.0% of cases.
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A Simple Guide to Disc Bulges and Prolapses

  1. 1. A Simple Guide to DiscBulges and Prolapses
  2. 2. What is a spinal disc?The disc is atough, gristly shockabsorber that sits inbetween the bonesof the spine.It separates thebones, lets themmove and supportsthem.
  3. 3. What does a Normal Disc looklike?A normal disc has twodifferent parts A tough outer areacalled the annulusfibrosisA slightly softer innerarea called thenucleus pulposis
  4. 4. A Normal Disc from the TopIf you look at a discfrom the top downit looks a little bitlike a tree stump.Rings of toughouter fibres encirclethe softer innercentre.
  5. 5. How Does the Disc WorkWhen weight goesthrough the discthe pressureinside increases -this improves thediscs strengthand stiffness.The pressureinside spreads theload evenlyacross all thesurfaces.
  6. 6. What is a Disc Bulge?A disc bulge occurswhen the tough, outerlayer becomes slightlyweaker. This allows thecentre to shift away fromthe middle.This shift causes theouter area to bulge -usually backward andsideways.
  7. 7. Disc Bulge from the SideWhen a disc bulges itsometimes squashesor irritates a nerve root.The most commonlyirritated nerve roots arethe ones that make upthe sciatic nerve.This is why disc bulgesare one of the mostcommon causes ofsciatica.Sciatica = irritation ofthe sciatic nerve.
  8. 8. What is a Disc Herniation orProlapse?A prolapse orherniation is moresevere than a bulge. It is caused by theouter area weakeningenough to allow theinner, softer annulus toescape out of the disc.A prolapse can alsoirritate or squash anerve.
  9. 9. What is a Slipped Disc?A slipped disc is amyth.Discs can’t slip asthey are firmlyattached to thebones above andbelow.When people talkabout a slipped discthey are talkingabout either a bulgeor a prolapse.

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