The nervous system is a complex network of nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and the spinal cord to other parts of the body. The spine houses the spinal cord and nerve roots. Any damage or degeneration of the spine, such as a bulging disc, can cause problems with the nervous system. A bulging disc can compress the surrounding nerve roots causing painful symptoms such as numbness, pain, tingling and muscle weakness.

What is a neurosurgeon?

A neurosurgeon is a physician who specializes in preventing, diagnosing, surgically treating and rehabilitating patients who have disorders of the nervous system. Neurosurgeons can further specialize in spine surgery by completing a spine fellowship program. They may even further subspecialize in treating cervical spine disorders, spine disorders of the neck, or lumbar spine disorders, spine disorders of the lower back.

Treatment of a bulging disc by a neurosurgeon

Finding a qualified neurosurgeon can help to ensure that you receive proper treatment and care for your bulging disc. Spine surgery is typically only recommended in severe cases or when conservative treatment has failed to control symptoms of a bulging disc. If you are referred to a neurosurgeon, he or she will perform a physical examination, symptoms review, medical history review, neurological examination and order additional diagnostic and imaging tests as required.

Depending on your condition, location of the bulging disc, your overall health and the symptoms you have been experiencing, a neurosurgeon will recommend a customized treatment plan. Surgical treatment of a bulging disc may include any of the following procedures:

  • Discectomy
  • Foraminotomy
  • Laminotomy
  • Spinal fusion
  • Disc replacement

These procedures can be performed as traditional open spine surgery or as minimally invasive spine surgery. Traditional open spine surgery requires a two- to five-day hospital stay and typically requires a lengthy recovery as the surgeon disrupts surrounding soft tissues and muscles in order to reach the affected area of the spine. In contrast, minimally invasive spine surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure and avoids unnecessary disruption to surrounding soft tissues and muscles for a shorter recovery period.

If conservative treatment options have failed to control bulging disc symptoms, ask your physician if a neurosurgeon might be able to provide surgical treatment options to relieve your pain.