Bulging disc symptoms can arise when an intervertebral disc balloons at a weak spot and exerts pressure on the spinal cord or an exiting nerve root. This pressure can send pain signals along the length of the affected nerve as well as disrupt the transmission of sensory information, resulting in pain, numbness and tingling in various areas of the body. In addition, excess pressure on the spinal cord can lead to muscle weakness in the arms and legs.
Cervical, thoracic and lumbar bulging discs
A bulging disc and the resulting symptoms can originate in any of three spinal regions that have intervertebral discs. For instance, a patient might experience a:
- Cervical bulging disc – Located in the neck, a cervical bulging disc occurs within the C2-C7 vertebrae (there is no intervertebral disc between the first two cervical vertebrae, C1 and C2, also known as the atlas and axis). Symptoms of nerve root compression in the cervical spine can include pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. Spinal cord compression in the cervical spine can result in myelopathy, a group of symptoms that can include difficulty walking, a feeling of heaviness in the legs and loss of fine motor skills in the fingers.
- Thoracic bulging disc – The thoracic area of the spine spans from the collar bone to the end of the rib cage and consists of 12 vertebrae described as T1-T12. Bulging discs are less common in the thoracic region, but when they do occur, the symptoms can include pain in the upper back that sometimes radiates to the chest or stomach. The nature of these symptoms can lead a patient to incorrectly suspect a problem with the heart, lungs or gastrointestinal tract, so it is important to promptly consult with a physician to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
- Lumbar bulging disc – Spanning from the waist to the hips, the lumbar region of the spine includes five, or sometimes six, vertebrae described as L1-L5 (and L6). Lumbar disc problems are the most widespread cause of lower back pain, which can be dull, sharp or burning and radiate to the buttocks, legs and feet. Lumbar bulging discs can also 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 and bending. When a lumbar bulging disc exerts pressure on the sciatic nerve, the resulting symptoms are commonly referred to as sciatica. In rare cases, patients with a lumbar bulging disc might experience a loss of bladder or bowel control. If this happens, the patient should go to the emergency room immediately, as bladder or bowel incontinence can indicate that the lumbar bulging disc is compressing the cauda equina nerve bundle, a condition requiring immediate surgery.
Surgery for the treatment of bulging disc symptoms
The highly skilled surgeons at Laser Spine Institute have perfected a number of minimally invasive procedures, including discectomy, foraminotomy and laminotomy, for the treatment of neck and back pain caused by bulging and herniated discs. Our dedication to minimally invasive procedures has made us the largest spine surgery center in the nation. This advantage grows every week, leading to a higher level of expertise, as Laser Spine Institute helps thousands of patients get their lives back.
If you have been diagnosed with a bulging or herniated disc and your symptoms have not responded sufficiently to conservative treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn about our proven minimally invasive advantages and to speak with our physicians. We will also be glad to provide you with a review of your recent MRI.