What is a bulging disc?
A bulging disc is a disc in the spine that is bulging or protruding into the spinal column. A bulging disc in the neck is also called a cervical disc herniation. As you age, the spine goes through degenerative changes that can lead to disc degeneration. The discs lose water content and the hard outer layer becomes brittle and more susceptible to damage. If you have a bulging disc that puts pressure on surrounding nerves or the spinal cord, it can cause painful symptoms.
Five signs you may have a bulging disc in your neck
- Location of symptoms. If symptoms of pain are located locally in the neck, or radiate from the neck to the shoulder, down the arm to the fingers, you may have a bulging disc in your neck.
- Pain. A bulging disc in the neck typically causes pain in the neck and neck stiffness. Pain can also be located in the shoulder blade and can radiate down to the shoulder, arm, hand and fingers. The type of pain varies person to person. Some people describe the pain as sharp while others describe it as shooting or burning. Pain from a bulging disc in the neck can make it difficult to move your neck freely.
- Change in sensation. A bulging disc in the neck compresses the nerve root below it and can cause a pins-and-needles sensation anywhere along the path of the pinched nerve. Numbness and tingling can extend from the neck, to the shoulder, down the arm, and to the hand and fingers.
- Muscle weakness. A bulging disc in the neck can cause muscle weakness in the arms, including the deltoids, biceps and triceps, and muscle weakness in the hands and fingers. A bulging disc in the neck can also cause reflex problems such as a diminished fingerjerk reflex. You might be unable to grip with your hand or have a loss of fine motor skills in the fingers if you have a bulging disc in the neck.
- Headaches. The main nerve that sends messages from your face to your brain shares a pain nucleus with spinal nerves located in the neck. Because of the shared nerve tract, pain can be misunderstood and felt by the brain as being a headache located in the head. Cervicogenic headache symptoms include throbbing pain, nausea, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noise, tenderness at the base of the skull and symptoms that become aggravated with head and neck movement.
Treatment for a bulging disc
If you have been experiencing painful symptoms due to a bulging disc, the typical first round of treatment is a combination of conservative options such as rest, heat and ice therapy, physical therapy and pain medication. If after a few months you are still experiencing disruptive symptoms, your physician will likely recommend surgical treatment.
Contact Laser Spine Institute today. We offer a no-cost MRI review* to help you find out if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive bulging disc procedures. At the Laser Spine Institute, our highly trained surgeons have dedicated their careers to performing minimally invasive spine surgery and helping our patients find symptom relief. We have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from pain.