What kind of pain does a bulging disc cause?

Bulging discs occur when one of the spinal discs that cushions the vertebrae in the spinal column extends out of its normal boundary. With age and everyday stresses, these discs can begin to lose their elasticity and become less able withstand the pressure they’re being placed under by the upper body. These forces can result in a range of degenerative disc conditions, including collapsed discs, herniated discs and bulging discs.

A bulging disc is a relatively common issue and not always painful. In fact, it is possible for one to develop without a person even knowing it is there. But if symptoms do develop, they can have a severe impact on nearly every part of your life, including your relationships, your job and your favorite hobbies. By having a better understanding of how this condition causes symptoms and what specific types of pain can develop, you can work with your doctor on a more informed basis when working on a treatment plan.

Bulging disc symptoms

Pain from a bulging disc is typically the result of nerve compression. If a disc bulges out of its normal boundaries, it can narrow the nerve pathways in the spine and put pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root. This may result in pain and other symptoms such as:

  • Localized pain and irritation
  • Shooting pains down the nerve pathway
  • Pins-and-needles sensations in the extremities
  • Numbness and muscle weakness

The location of radiating bulging disc pain depends on the location in the spinal column where the condition has developed. A bulging disc in the cervical (upper) spine can affect the neck, arms and hands, while a lumbar (lower) bulging disc generally causes symptoms in the lower back, hips, buttocks and legs.

Bulging disc treatment

Upon diagnosis of a bulging disc as the source of pain and other symptoms, doctors will begin treatment with a course of conservative therapy. Bulging discs can heal on their own, so the goal of initial treatment is to manage pain, improve flexibility and take steps to promote the long-term health of the spine. Rest, low-impact exercises, physical therapy, over-the-counter medication, hot and/or cold compression therapy and spinal injections are all effective nonsurgical options that help many patients return to a healthy and active lifestyle.

If a full course of conservative treatment has been attempted and symptoms remain debilitating, or have worsened, you may be referred to a surgical specialist for a consultation. Patients exploring the possibility of spine surgery for a bulging disc should get in touch with the caring team at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures,^ offering patients who come to us a streamlined outpatient experience.

Ask a member of our team how to receive your free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.

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