Bulging disc symptoms, treatments and more about this common spine condition
Bulging disc symptoms
For many people, bulging disc symptoms only appear when the damaged disc starts to push on the spinal cord or a nerve root exiting the spine. This pinching causes the tingling, numbness and shooting pains often described by patients with a bulging disc.
The location of these symptoms depends on the part of the spine where the disc damage has occurred. A bulging disc in the neck can cause pain to radiate out to the shoulders, arms and hands, while someone with a bulging disc in the lower back usually experiences symptoms in the hips, buttocks or legs.
What is a bulging disc?
The spine is made up of three main parts: vertebrae, facet joints and discs. While the vertebrae and joints are the actual bones that link together to hold up the spine and protect the spinal cord, the discs act as cushions between the individual vertebra, allowing them to flex and move. The discs themselves are made up of a soft inner layer consisting of mostly water and protein, and a protective outer layer made of tougher fibrous tissue.
When this outer layer is weakened, usually due to age, pressure from the inner layer can cause the disc to bulge out from between the vertebrae.
Associated symptoms of a bulging disc
A bulging disc doesn’t always cause painful symptoms, and many people live with the condition for years without noticing. However, if the disc begins to press against any nerve tissue, such as the spinal cord or nerve roots, then you may start to experience the most common bulging disc symptoms, such as:
- Shooting pain. This is one of the most commonly described symptoms from a disc bulge. This usually happens when the pressure on a nerve increases due to sudden or irregular movement.
- Tingling or numbness in extremities. If the disc is pinching the spinal cord, it can interfere with sensory information throughout the body, traveling as far as the hands and feet.
- Muscle weakness. Nerve compression in the spine can interfere with muscle function, especially in the lower body, causing difficulty with standing or walking.
- Loss of fine motor skills. A bulging disc in the cervical spine can disrupt the ability to control fingers, making it difficult to perform basic tasks.
Treatment options for a bulging disc
For individuals experiencing these bulging disc symptoms, there are a number of treatments available. In most cases, the first step toward pain relief is a series of nonsurgical treatment options. Anti-inflammatory pain medication, hot and cold compresses, and physical therapy are some of the most commonly prescribed treatments. You should always consult your physician before starting or changing any sort of treatment for back pain.
If conservative treatment fails to relieve your symptoms and you are considering an invasive traditional open back surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how one of our outpatient procedures could help you find relief from pain related to a bulging disc.
For many patients, we may recommend a minimally invasive decompression surgery to remove a piece of the bulging disc from the pinched nerve. In cases where damage from a bulging disc requires full disc removal, our minimally invasive stabilization procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back fusion procedures.^