What is a bulging disc in the neck?

Man suffering from a bulging disc in the neck

A bulging disc in the neck occurs when a disc in the upper, or cervical, spine is damaged and weakened to the point that it protrudes outward.

This protrusion is caused by continual pressure from the surrounding vertebrae pressing down on the disc in between the vertebrae and causing it to expand beyond the normal parameters of the spine. Typically, a bulging disc develops as a result of continual motion slowly deteriorating the joints between the vertebrae and wearing down the discs in the spine. This is especially true in the cervical spine (neck) because the vertebrae and discs are responsible for supporting the head and allowing movement and pivoting to the head and neck. This continual movement can cause the vertebrae to wear down and a bulging disc to develop over time.

While some bulging discs go unnoticed, others may result in severe and debilitating symptoms. If the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root is compressed by bulging disc material, uncomfortable symptoms can arise in various areas of the body. Nerve root compression symptoms can include pain, numbness, and tingling or “pins-and-needles” sensations that are typically localized in the neck, chest, arms and hands. You should consult a physician or spine care specialist about treatments that will help relieve the pain and symptoms of a bulging disc.

At-home remedies for a bulging disc in the neck

Many patients find relief from a bulging disc through conservative treatments including pain medication and simple at-home exercises to relieve the pressure from the bulging disc and allow the body to begin healing.

Usually, a physician will prescribe an initial course of anti-inflammatory medications to reduce painful swelling around nerve roots and the spinal cord. A physician also may recommend targeted exercises designed to improve the posture and stability of the spine. For example, many patients find a combination of stretching, weight training and exercise to be very effective. Your physician may also suggest ergonomic changes designed to provide more support to your neck and head as you sit, work, drive and sleep.

You should always consult your physician or specialist before you begin or make any changes to an existing treatment plan to ensure your health and safety. You should also talk to your physician about other treatment options if several months of conservative therapy are not providing you with any lasting pain relief.

If surgery becomes necessary

If your symptoms persist or worsen following several weeks or months of conservative treatment, you may be advised to consider surgery.

At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive spine surgery helps patients find relief from bulging disc pain without the increased risks of traditional open back surgery. Our minimally invasive discectomy and stabilization procedure relieves symptoms by replacing the damaged disc with an artificial disc — all through a small incision that does not disrupt the surrounding muscles. This stabilization option provides higher patient satisfaction scores because, unlike traditional fusion that uses metal cages to fuse a portion of the spine together, the artificial disc replicates the natural movement and healing of the spine after surgery.

For more information about the procedures that made Laser Spine Institute the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, contact us today to talk to one of our spine care experts. You can also send us your MRI report so we can help you find the best treatment option for your needs.

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