The spinal canal runs behind the vertebrae and the discs. This tunnel houses the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots. This is where damaged discs often cause trouble. Sometimes the “dough” can sag, bulge, and push out into the spinal canal. This is called a disc bulge. Sometimes the “jam” can push through the dough and herniate into the spinal canal. This is called disc herniation.
Pain and dysfunction can strike when a disc pushes onto nerve tissues like the spinal cord or spinal nerves. A disc bulge or herniation can occur in the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle back), or (lumbar) lower back. Its location determines the symptoms.
A disc can also degenerate; wear down. It can become dehydrated, cracked, and lose its height. This can place extra pressure on the spine’s joints, causing pain, stiffness, and dysfunction. While disc degeneration is more common in men, a bulging disc is equally common across the sexes.