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Understanding the problem

A bulging disc is defined as a disc in the spine that has flattened and expanded - or bulged - into the spinal canal. This is commonly caused by continual pressure from the surrounding vertebrae pressing against the disc and causing it to lose shape and height.

A common misconception about bulging discs is that they always produce back pain and other symptoms. However, a bulging disc or any other damaged disc only results in symptoms of pain when it presses against a nerve near the spine. For many people, the body heals a damaged disc through the natural resorption process before any symptoms of pain are experienced.

Understanding who suffers

The most common cause of a bulging disc is aging. With age, the shock-absorbing spinal discs lose water content, making them stiffer, flatter and more prone to damage. This causes a disc to lose its natural elastic recoil. Any minor trauma increases pressure of the disc’s central core, stressing and stretching the outer fibrous ring, which may not return it to its original shape.

When this cycle is repeated over an extended period of time, a balloon, or bulging disc, can result. If a disc bulge ruptures and allows the inner jellylike core of the bulging disc to seep out, the injury is called a ruptured or herniated disc. Bulging discs can happen to a person in their 20s but are more common in people in their 30s and 40s.

Potential Signs and Symptoms

Bulging disc symptoms vary depending on the severity and location of the condition. The problem develops when a disc’s tough outer layer (annulus fibrosus) gradually weakens and allows the inner, softer material (nucleus pulposus) to protrude outward and into the spinal column.

Severe pain can occur in the area of the bulge, and a host of other symptoms can also affect the torso, arms and legs:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle spasms or cramping

The location of symptoms will vary, based on the region of the spine where the nerve impingement occurred. For instance, if the condition occurs in the lower back, or lumbar region of the spine, there is a higher chance that the bulge will impinge on the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve runs from either side of the base of the spinal cord, past the buttocks and down through each leg. If the sciatic nerve is disturbed, the symptoms typically arise in the legs and feet, a condition known as sciatica.

If the bulge develops in the neck, or cervical region, numbness and tingling may be felt in the shoulders, arms and fingers.

Examinations Usually Required

Physicians diagnose a bulging disc by reviewing a patient's medical background. This involves questions about symptoms, current and past health problems, previous accidents, past surgeries and family’s medical history, occupation, activity level and participation in sports.

A physical examination will follow in order to test a patient's reflexes and muscle strength. Additionally, physicians may ask a patient to get in various positions to see if certain movements cause pain or discomfort, or conversely, relieve symptoms. Finally, physicians may decide to press on the spine in certain areas, which can help to indicate any spinal arthritis, a lumbar bulging disc, a cervical bulging disc or other degenerative spinal condition.

Once a medical review and physical examination help the physician arrive at a preliminary bulging disc diagnosis, often that diagnosis will be confirmed with a CT scan, MRI or another medical imaging test.

Proposing Treatment and Why AIMIS

Following the diagnosis of a symptomatic bulging disc, conservative non-surgical treatment will initially be proposed. If conservative treatment fails, your physician might recommend surgery.

AIMIS is an expert in spine surgery and can provide minimally invasive procedures for bulging discs and can review and propose your type and course of treatment.

  • Discectomy – removing material from the bulging disc, which presses on the spinal nerve that is causing nerve inflammation, decompressing the affected nerve in the process.
  • Laminotomy or foraminotomy –to recreate space in the spinal canal or the narrow passageways in the spinal column that normally house nerve infrastructure. The removal of small segments of bone can reduce pressure on the affected nerve.
  • Minimally invasive stabilization – This approach is recommended for advanced cases of disc degeneration where the disc needs to be carefully removed and the affected region of the spine stabilized through fusion.

AIMIS provides various surgical options depending on an individual’s problem and include:

  • Minimally Invasive Decompression Surgery,
  • Minimally Invasive Stabilization Surgery,
  • Laminotomy,
  • Foraminotomy,
  • Discectomy,
  • Micro-Discectomy,
  • Micro-Decompression,
  • Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery,
  • Total Disk Replacement (TDR),
  • Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion,
  • Decompressor Discectomy,
  • Lumbar Disc Microsurgery Treatment

Why minimally invasive spine surgery?

Minimally invasive spine surgery was developed to treat spine problems with less injury to the muscles and other normal structures in the spine. It also assists the surgeon to see where the problem exists in the spine. Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS), does not involve a long incision as is open surgery which helps to avoid damage to the muscles surrounding the spine. In most cases, this results in less pain after surgery and a significant faster recovery.

Spine surgery is normally recommended once a period of nonsurgical treatment likely including medications and physical therapy has not provided pain relief caused by the back problem. Surgery is considered when the source of your pain and underlying cause can be identified and surgical procedure proposed. Minimally invasive techniques today are common and being used for a wide range of spine procedures.

Benefits of minimal invasive spine surgery include:

  • Small incisions
  • Less pain. Often less pain than open procedures because less of the natural anatomy is disrupted
  • Shorter Hospital stay
  • Quicker return to daily activities
  • Lower infection and complication rate
  • Less blood loss. Smaller incisions also mean less blood loss, which can ultimately improve outcomes.
  • Minimally invasive procedures take a surgery that could be a dramatic event and makes it have less of an impact!

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    Reputable and Prestigious Surgeons

    AIMIS' skilled team of neurosurgeons, orthopaedic surgeons and ancillary professionals has one of the leading experiences in the world for minimally invasive spine surgery. Our full team are consulted with each case to find the most suitable experienced doctor for the patient’s exact issue, to ensure the maximum potential outcome of treatment

    Getting More Information Before Moving Forward
    You may have questions like:
    • Can I get more information before I commit to this?
    • Can I get a second opinion from you before I commit to this?
    • How can I find out the cost before I have any obligation?
    What AIMIS Can do:

    AIMIS will provide a full review, diagnosis and potential surgical options for your condition, after receiving the relevant examinations and information from you. They will also provide an estimate for your surgical procedure before you decide. AIMIS’s mission is to the provision of “true” healthcare for those who require it. It provides world leading surgeons using state of the art procedures to optimize potential surgical outcomes, whilst taking care of all arrangements so as to allow concentration on recovery.


    AIMIS provide competitive prices for state of the art procedures. We also work with a large range of Insurance companies where your policy allows you to have surgery abroad.

    Further information on the problem:

    Bulging discs may be categorized by their location in the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle back) and lumbar (lower back) regions of the spine, and these different types of bulging discs can cause different reactions throughout the body. For example, a bulging disc in the cervical region that’s pressing on a nerve root may affect the shoulders, arms, hands and other areas in the upper body. Similarly, a bulging disc that compresses a nerve root in the lumbar area may cause symptoms in the buttocks, hips, legs, feet and other parts of the lower body. These symptoms may range between weakness, numbness, tingling, pain or a feeling of heat. A bulging disc that compresses the spinal cord, however, may cause myelopathy, a clinical syndrome in which the patient may experience numbness or weakness in any area below the point of compression, as opposed to having symptoms in one specific limb or area. Although a bulging disc may occur almost anywhere in the spine, approximately 90 % occur in the lumbar region.

    When we categorize the different types of bulging discs by the way the disc expands, there are three main types: symmetrical bulges, protrusions and extrusions. A symmetrical bulging disc occurs when disc expands its borders equally in every direction. A protrusion, on the other hand, is when the disc’s border expands in one direction. If this bulge involves 25 to 50 % of the disc’s circumference, it’s considered a broad-based protrusion. There are also focal protrusions, in which less than 25 % of the disc’s circumference bulges in one direction. If this focal bulge takes on the shape of a bubble, then the bulging disc can be classified as an extrusion

    Further Information on Increased Risk Groups

    A bulging disc will most commonly develop in the lumbar spine because this portion of the spine is responsible for the body’s weight and movement. There is constant pressure on the discs between the vertebrae, which leaves the discs susceptible to deterioration and damage.

    Similarly, the cervical spine is responsible for supporting the weight and movement of the head.

    Some of the bulging disc risk factors that can expedite the development of this condition include:

    • Age
    • Arthritis of the spine (osteoarthritis)
    • Improper lifting techniques
    • Excessive back and neck strain (for example, working at a job that requires a lot of standing, bending, heavy lifting, etc.)
    • Height (taller individuals may be more prone to bulging discs)
    • Excessive weight gain
    • An unhealthy diet
    • Poor posture
    • Inactivity, which leads to weakened core muscles
    • Smoking
    • Dehydration
    Why AIMIS for this Surgery

    AIMIS strives for excellence in delivering the best surgical outcomes, via the extensive expertise of its prestige surgeons, its technologies, its highly trained staff and superior facilities to provide an individualized and compassionate experience in a comfortable environment. All patients are treated with the individual care they deserve in an effort to provide the best chance of successful treatment.

    Other Services Provided by AIMIS

    In addition to its Innovative Healthcare, AIMIS provides seamless service along the way. From the start of your journey you'll know the best flights to take, where you'll be staying, what paperwork you will need. You will have a personal assistant assigned; from your pick up at the airport, to your accommodation, continuous assistance at your pre-consultation, through surgery and in your postsurgical care. Our Patients have said that they feel they have become "part of our family" and some even asked to stay a little longer! AIMIS is here to assist you in an all you requirements, allowing you to focus on your health and recovery.