A bulging disc occurs when the tough exterior portion of a disc extends beyond its normal position between two vertebrae. Bulging discs are fairly common occurrences and are considered a normal part of the aging process of the spine, but can also occur in individuals who have sustained a back or neck injury. While some bulges cause no obvious symptoms, others can produce intense pain, especially if the bulging disc portion presses against a major nerve root.
A bulging disc is often confused with a herniated disc, which is typically a result of a bulging disc in which the tough outer layer of the disc cracks and some of the softer, inner disc material protrudes.
The symptoms of a bulging disc depend largely on the circumstances and severity of the condition. The bulge in the outer wall of the disc may create pain and other symptoms if it presses against a nerve root that extends from the spinal cord between the vertebrae. When a bulging disc causes a pinched nerve, radicular pain is caused — a form of pain that may affect any part of the body, depending on which body part that nerve root serves.
Other symptoms of a bulging disc pressing against your spinal cord include muscle weakness, numbness, tingling in legs or arms, increased reflexes in legs or arms that cause spastic movement or changes in bladder or bowel function. A bulging disc in your neck may cause symptoms like pain during neck movement, deep pain near or over your shoulder blades or radiating pain that runs down your arms.
Pain from a bulging disc may start slowly and get worse over time or during certain activities, but loss of muscle strength is often an early warning sign. Do you worry you may have a bulging disc? Try our Condition Checker to diagnosis your pain and take steps toward living pain-free again.
Find your condition with our 2-minute Condition Checker.
Generally, the symptoms of a bulging disc do not show unless the protruding disc sets other problems into motion. If you have a bulging disc problem, you may experience the following symptoms:
Lower Back Pain
When your lower back pain goes all the way to your abdomen and chest, you may have a thoracic bulging disc. It is important that you get checked by a medical professional immediately, as this might also signify gastrointestinal, lung and heart failure.
Tingling and Pain in the Neck
You may feel pain or tingling in your fingers, hands, neck, arms and shoulders. This is usually a sign that you have a bulging disc in the upper spine area. You need to seek urgent medical assistance if you have trouble walking, feel that your legs are heavy or can’t walk completely. This may indicate life-threatening damage to the spinal cord.
A lumbar region bulging disc is indicated by pain and muscle spasms in the lower back area. This discomfort may spread to the feet, buttocks and thighs. The lumbar area usually carries up to 90% of the total body weight. In most cases, this may cause sciatica, a condition that is described as pain radiating down one leg. Contact medical experts if you lose bladder control.
Discover which treatment options are right for you with our Treatment Finder.
Our spine surgeons encourage those with a bulging disc to undergo conservative treatments once pain or other troubling symptoms begin. This gives the disc a chance to restore itself to its former position and shape while allowing the pinched nerves to heal. Treatments range from physical therapy to pain-relieving medications, including strengthening exercises or cortisone shots. Patients are typically required to investigate more conservative options first and turn to surgery only after these options have failed to relieve pain.
The expert team at NJ Spine & Orthopedic can perform a variety of surgical procedures using minimally invasive techniques to provide the best possible outcomes for long-term relief from a bulging disc.
An artificial disc replacement is a minimally invasive solution to a severe bulging disc, performed in a two-hour outpatient setting. This treatment allows for a quicker, less painful recovery period spent in the comfort of your own home.
There’s no need to suffer through progressively worsening back pain and loss of muscle function. If conservative treatment methods have failed you and you are tired of living with the constant pain and other symptoms from one or more bulging discs, try our Candidacy Verification tool to determine if you qualify for one of our minimally invasive surgical solutions.
Determine your eligibility with our Candidacy Verification.
Effective pain relief; less scarring— a postage stamp-sized incision (less than an inch in length) is often all that it takes to eliminate your pain.
Our minimally invasive and outpatient procedures will have you back in the comfort of your home on the very same day.
Our surgeons use advanced video-assisted technology to optimize the effectiveness of your procedure while minimizing post-operative pain.
Our board certified surgeons are skilled in the latest minimally invasive techniques to guarantee lasting solutions to your neck & back pain.