A bulging disc in the neck can cause severe pain in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Also known as a cervical bulging disc, this condition often results from normal disc deterioration due to aging, but it can also be caused by a trauma, such as a car accident, that places stress on the neck.
The symptoms of a cervical bulging disc can include:
- Neck stiffness and headaches
- Pain, weakness, numbness and tingling radiating from the neck to the shoulders, arms, hands, wrists and fingers
- Pain in the neck at or near the spot in the spinal column where the bulging disc is located
- Weakness in the legs if the spinal cord is compressed by the disc bulge
- Other symptoms
A bulging disc in the neck can involve any of the intervertebral discs in between the C1 and C7 vertebrae, or cervical vertebrae. Like all intervertebral discs, these discs are made up of a spongy fibrocartilaginous material that acts as a natural shock absorber. The discs provide an excellent cushion between the rigid, bony vertebrae, allowing the neck and back to move and flex. When a disc bulges, however, it expands out of its normal space in the spinal column. If this bulge starts pushing on nerve roots or the spinal cord, the nerves become irritated, and pain and other symptoms occur.
Disc bulges most often occur as a result of age. Over the years, our intervertebral discs tend to weaken and become misshapen, resulting in a bulge. A trauma or injury to the neck can also cause a disc protrusion. A damaged disc can also break open, which can cause soft inner disc material to leak out into the spinal canal. This condition is called a herniated disc or ruptured disc.
If you have neck pain and you have been diagnosed with a bulging disc in the neck, your physician may recommend rest, physical therapy, exercise, over-the-counter medications or a neck brace. If your symptoms don’t wane with these treatments, your physician may try a corticosteroid injection to quell inflammation of the nerve roots that are being pinched or squeezed by the bulging disc.
If these treatments fail and your pain is so incapacitating that it is affecting your ability to work or enjoy leisure activities, then your physician may recommend traditional disc surgery. Open neck surgery to treat a cervical bulging disc often involves hospitalization, a large incision and an extensive recovery period.
However, you do have a more effective alternative: the innovative procedures at Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive procedures that are performed on an outpatient basis. For more information on our procedures, contact us for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.