If you have a received a bulging disc diagnosis, you may be curious as to what exactly this condition entails. As the body ages, the cartilaginous discs between that support the vertebrae lose water content, becoming stiffer and more brittle. The outer layer of these discs becomes weaker and in this state it can give way to pressure by protruding outward, hence the disc bulging out of its normal boundaries.

Surprisingly, many people could have a bulging disc and not even realize it. This is because bulging discs typically cause noticeable symptoms if the bulging disc pushes against a nerve root or the spinal cord. Therefore, most patients only receive a bulging disc diagnosis after experiencing the symptoms from the resulting pressure from the nerve root or spinal cord.

These symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headaches
  • Limited range of motion

Location of a Bulging Disc

A bulging disc diagnosis will likely include the location of the afflicted disc which can be one of three areas:

  • Cervical — The upper portion of the spine more commonly called the neck and upper back, which includes vertebrae C1 – C7. A bulging disc in this region causes symptoms in the head, upper back, shoulders and arms.
  • Thoracic — The middle portion of the spine that includes the mid-back and vertebrae T1 – T12. Symptoms of a bulging disc in this area are felt in the chest and middle of the back.
  • Lumbar — The lower part of the spine that encompasses vertebrae L1 – L5 and is also called the lower back. Symptoms of a lumbar bulging disc are experienced in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet.

Potential treatments for a bulging disc

Many treatments exist for bulging disc conditions, including both nonsurgical and surgical. Most patients will start with a nonsurgical treatment plan that can include pain medication, physical therapy, exercise, lifestyle changes, etc. Speak to your physician about developing a personalized noninvasive treatment plan.

If your bulging disc symptoms do not respond to these nonsurgical treatments, however, your physician may recommend surgery. There are two main types of surgery to treat a bulging disc: traditional open spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery. Traditional open spine surgery was for years seen as the only option in the field of orthopedic spine surgery, but it is a highly invasive procedure that involves large incisions and muscle tearing, which results in a lengthy recovery.

In contrast, minimally invasive spine surgery uses state-of-the-art technology to accomplish the same goals of traditional open spine surgery using much smaller incisions. These minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis that allows patients to avoid hospital-associated costs and return to their lives faster.

If you have received a bulging disc diagnosis, ask your physician about the types of bulging disc treatment that could be right for you.