Bulging disc symptoms are caused by a weak spot in an intervertebral disc that swells and puts direct pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots extending from the spinal cord. This pressure can send pain signals throughout the length of the nerve as well as interrupt signals, causing numbness and tingling. In addition, pressure on a nerve root can bring about weakness in the muscles.
Bulging disc symptoms can originate in the cervical spine region, the thoracic spine region or the lumbar spine region:
- Cervical bulging disc – Located in the neck, a cervical bulging disc is defined as being positioned somewhere within the cervical vertebrae, which are labeled C1-C7. Symptoms of this condition include pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.
- Thoracic bulging disc – The thoracic area of the spine is located behind the chest area and consists of 12 vertebrae labeled T1-T12. Bulging discs are less common in the thoracic region, but when they occur, symptoms include pain in the upper back that may radiate to the chest or stomach. This might lead patients and physicians to surmise that there are problems with the heart, lungs or gastrointestinal tract.
- Lumbar bulging disc – The lumbar region of the spine has five, or in some people six, vertebrae labeled L1-L5 (or L6). This region is roughly located from the waist to the hips. Lumbar disc problems are the most widespread cause of lower back pain (which can be dull, sharp or burning) that radiates to the buttocks, legs and feet. Lumbar bulging discs also can result in weakness, numbness and tingling in the legs, as well as muscle spasms. Symptoms of a lumbar bulging disc can worsen with coughing, sneezing or bending over. When a lumbar bulging disc exerts pressure on the sciatic nerve, the condition is commonly called sciatica. If you experience loss of bladder or bowel control, you should seek emergency medical care immediately as this can be a sign of a lumbar bulging disc interfering with the cauda equina nerve bundle, a condition that requires immediate surgery.
Laser Spine Institute has perfected a number of minimally invasive procedures to treat neck and back pain, including discectomy for the treatment of bulging and herniated discs. If you have been diagnosed with a bulging or herniated disc and your symptoms are not responding to treatment, please contact us for more information about our outpatient procedures.