What are the symptoms of a bulging disc?

Bulging disc symptoms vary depending on the severity and location of the condition. This condition develops when a disc’s tough outer layer gradually weakens and allows the inner, softer material to protrude outward and into the spinal column.

Types and locations of bulging disc symptoms

Severe pain can occur both locally while also causing radiating symptoms in the extremities if displaced disc material puts pressure on a spinal nerve. These symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle spasms or cramping

The location of symptoms will depend on the region of the spine where nerve compression occurred. For instance, a bulging disc causing a pinched nerve in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine will affect the lower body, including the hips, buttocks, legs and feet. Symptoms of a bulging disc in the lower body may be referred to as sciatica if the long sciatic nerve is being compressed.

A bulging disc in the cervical (upper) part of the spine may cause radiating symptoms in the upper body, including the neck, shoulders, arms and hands. While a bulging disc in the thoracic (middle) spine is less common due to this region being fixed to the ribcage, nerve compression here will generally affect the chest or abdomen.

Treatment options

While it is possible to have a bulging disc and not experience pain or symptoms, they can be treated if they do develop. Most doctors will advise an initial course of conservative treatment including rest, medication, light exercise, hot and cold compression and physical therapy. Making changes like losing weight and quitting smoking can also be beneficial in the treatment of bulging disc symptoms.

In a large number of cases, patients dealing with a symptomatic bulging disc are able to experience an acceptable quality of life without the need for surgery. But if weeks and months go by and treatment options are exhausted without improving symptoms, you may be asked to consider surgery. If you are in this situation, contact our dedicated and caring team at Laser Spine Institute to learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery. Since 2005, our board-certified surgeons+ have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from neck and back pain with our outpatient procedures.

Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure at Laser Spine Institute.

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