About Bulging Discs
In between each vertebra in the spinal column there is an intervertebral disc which acts as a shock absorber and prevents the vertebra and the spinal column from getting damaged by the daily stress that is put on the spinal column and the vertebrae as a result of repetitive activities at home or at work. The intervertebral discs prevent the vertebra from rubbing against each other causing friction which may predispose the affected individual to a variety of symptoms.
Sometimes what happens is that due to repetitive stress to the discs and as a result of normal degeneration caused due to age, the intervertebral disc bulges out of its normal alignment and starts irritating the adjacent nerve roots. This is what is called as a Bulging Disc.(1) The irritation caused to the nerve roots by the bulging discs causes a variety of symptoms, including pain, problems with lifting, pushing, pulling, and even walking. The individual may have a tough time carrying out activities of daily living either at home or at work due to Disc Bulge. In some cases, if the bulge is quite small then it may not cause any symptoms at all and the patient may even be unaware of a bulging disc.
Degeneration due to aging is the most common cause for a bulging disc although repetitive stress injury or an injury to the spinal cord due to a motor vehicle crash, playing in competitive contact sports like football and rugby, or a hard fall on a concrete floor on the back may also result in a bulging disc.
Normally, a Disc Bulge is not a serious condition and can be treated conservatively. A question that has been asked of late by many patients diagnosed with a bulging disc is that whether this condition can result in paralysis.
Can You Become Paralyzed From A Bulging Disc?
As stated, a disc bulge is normally a benign condition but tends to become serious when it results in narrowing of the spinal canal. This is what results in the symptoms which include but are not limited to numbness and weakness of the lower extremities, pain, and difficulty carrying out activities of daily living.
Coming to the question of whether it may result in paralysis then the answer is yes, at times when the disc bulge becomes severe enough that it causes severe compression of the nerve roots, it may result in the communication between the nerve fibers of the lower extremities, which pass through the spinal column and the brain, to get interrupted. This interruption in communication between the brain and the nerves of the lower extremities may result in paralysis of the lower extremities from the waist down.
In conclusion, a disc bulge indeed may be a condition which is fairly benign in majority of the cases; however, in cases where the disc bulge is significant enough where it severely compresses the nerve fibers and interrupts nerve signals to and from the brain to the lower extremities then it can result in paralysis from the waist down.