Bulging disc symptoms can vary widely from person to person. The main factors influencing the symptoms of a bulging disc are the location of the damaged disc and the severity of the bulge. The site of the pain and other symptoms depends on which disc is weakened, while the level of pain depends on how much of the disc is pressing on a nerve.
The symptoms of a bulging disc begin when the bulge puts pressure on nerve roots, which are initial segments of nerves that branch off from the spinal cord. Bulging disc symptoms begin at the point of pressure and radiate to where the affected nerve root travels. For example:
- A bulging disc in the neck can cause pain, tingling and numbness that branch out to the chest, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.
- In the thoracic area of the spine, a bulging disc may cause pain to spread to anywhere from the chest to the upper thighs.
- When located in the lumbar spine, a bulging disc can cause pain to travel from the lower back to the buttocks, legs and feet. A bulging disc located in the lower back also might lead to the development of sciatica.
Bulging disc symptoms are usually worse when you’re active and get better when you’re resting. Bending forward, driving, coughing, sneezing and sitting may make the pain worse. The pain increases when you make these movements because they put more pressure on the impinged nerve.
After your physician has confirmed that your symptoms are being caused by a bulging disc, he or she will likely recommend conservative treatments like heat application, exercise, physical therapy, medications and injections. Patients may also explore alternative treatments like chiropractic manipulation and acupuncture. In most cases, bulging disc patients experience relief after trying one or more of these treatments.
If your bulging disc symptoms become severe and debilitating, your physician may talk to you about surgical options. Some traditional open spine surgeries for a bulging disc require large incisions.
Before going through open back surgery for a bulging disc, you should explore other options, such as the minimally invasive outpatient procedures offered by Laser Spine Institute. Our treatment of bulging discs is accomplished through a procedure called endoscopic discectomy, a technique that our surgeons have performed thousands of times, allowing patients to find relief from their pain. Please contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more and to receive a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.