Can a bulging disc be detected with the fingers?

Sometimes people who are experiencing pain in their neck or back may feel some sort of bump or swelling when they touch the painful area and wonder whether that means they have a bulging disc. In these cases, it’s possible that the pain results from a bulging disc, but it’s not possible to detect the protruding disc itself by touching the neck or back. If you’re feeling a protrusion when you touch your neck or back with your fingertips, it’s likely to be the bony edge of one of your vertebrae or possibly a muscle spasm. The spinal discs that serve as shock absorbers for your vertebrae are located too far away from your skin for you to detect one with your fingertips.

To obtain an accurate bulging disc diagnosis, you’ll need to consult with your doctor, who will ask about your symptoms and recent activities. Although she or he will likely conduct a physical exam that may include touching the painful area of your neck or back, your doctor will not expect to identify a deteriorating disc with the fingertips. Typically, an MRI is needed to identify a bulging disc.

Symptoms of a bulging disc

A bulging disc is a disc that has deteriorated as the result of an injury or natural aging. The disc’s tough outer shell has weakened and is protruding into the spinal canal that houses the spinal cord. This type of disc degeneration is quite common and frequently causes no symptoms at all. However, if the protruding disc encroaches on the spinal cord or an adjacent nerve, it can cause irritation and inflammation that lead to a number of symptoms, including:

  • Severe pain and stiffness at the site of the affected nerve, usually in the neck or lower back
  • Pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness that radiate to the arms or legs
  • In rare cases, loss of bladder or bowel control (which requires emergency medical treatment)

Treatment for a bulging disc

Once your bulging disc has been diagnosed, your doctor will likely encourage you to pursue conservative treatments such as hot and cold compresses, stretching exercises and anti-inflammatory medications. Many people experience adequate relief from their symptoms with these types of remedies. However, others may experience little relief or their symptoms may grow worse, leading them to consider surgery as a treatment option.

If you receive a bulging disc diagnosis and your symptoms don’t improve after you’ve tried conservative treatments, you may be interested in minimally invasive surgery at Laser Spine Institute as a treatment option. Our minimally invasive outpatient procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine procedures.^

To learn more about the minimally invasive surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today. We can also offer a free MRI review* to help determine if you’re a candidate for our procedures.

Browse Related Resources