Frequently asked question is about the difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc. Discs are composed of outer layer of cartilage with a softer cartilage in the center. They act as cushions between the vertebrae in our spine. A bulging disc extends outside the space it should normally occupy. It could be compared to a hamburger that is too large for the bun. The bulging part of the disc is usually the tough outer layer of the cartilage. Bulging is usually considered part of the normal aging process of the disc.
A herniated disc is characterized by the crack in the tough outer layer of the cartilage which allows some of the softer inner cartilage to protrude out of the disc. Herniated discs are also called ruptured or slipped discs.
Bulging discs are more common and don't always cause pain. Herniated discs are more likely to cause pain due to pressure on the nerve root, inflammation and require medical intervention.
In Chinese Medicine, the root of these conditions is injury to the area, invasion of wind, cold, or damp due to overtaxation condition, as well as Liver and Kidney deficiency resulting in lack of nourishments to the channels. Symptoms include low back pain, pain radiating to the lower limbs, sensory disturbances like numbness and burning sensations in the area, unilateral or bilateral sciatica.
In Oriental Medicine, common prescription for this condition is called eight needle technique which consists of eight points essentially in the local area of bulging or herniation. These points are energetically centered on remediating Kidney Qi and Yang deficiency.
Course of treatment will usually consist of 8-10 acupuncture sessions once or twice a week with follow up treatments as prescribed by the physician. Results are frequently efficacious and long lasting depending on individual conditions.