A bulging disc can cause several painful symptoms if it compresses a nearby nerve root. Muscle weakness, muscle spasms, localized pain, radiating pain, pins-and-needles sensation, numbness and tingling can all be caused by a bulging disc. If you think you might have a bulging disc, schedule an appointment with your physician in order to find out if you have a bulging disc diagnosis.
How is a bulging disc diagnosed?
To determine if you have a bulging disc diagnosis, your physician will complete the following procedures to confirm a diagnosis:
- Medical history review. Your physician will ask you detailed questions, or to fill out a form, about your medical history. Previous accidents and surgeries, allergies, medications, current and past health conditions and your family’s significant medical history are all important details that your physician will want to document and review. Your physician will also capture information about your occupation, activity level, eating habits and participation in sports.
- Symptoms review. Be prepared to thoroughly explain the symptoms you have been experiencing. This information is a very important part of the diagnosis. Your physician will want to know when symptoms started, if they are continuous or intermittent, if symptoms have improved or are getting worse, if certain activities or positions aggravate or improve symptoms, what the symptoms feel like and if you have tried any home treatment.
- Physical examination. Your physician will perform a physical examination, lightly touching certain areas of the body to see if there are any irregularities or areas of concern. A small rubber hammer will also be used to test your reflexes and muscle strength.
- Diagnostic testing and imaging. Once the symptoms review, medical history review and physical examination have been completed, your physician may order diagnostic testing in order to confirm the diagnosis or further pinpoint the affected area. Tests that may be ordered to confirm a bulging disc diagnosis include X-rays, CT scan, MRI and other tests as needed.
What is an MRI?
An MRI allows your physician to view your spine and determine if a bulging disc is causing the symptoms you have described. In some cases an MRI may also be able to help your physician determine what caused the bulging disc to develop. An MRI is a magnetic resonance imaging test that takes detailed images of the body. If positioned on the spine an MRI will capture the vertebrae, discs and nerves. An MRI is a helpful tool to help with a bulging disc diagnosis.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your physician will educate you about your treatment options and make recommendations for next steps. A bulging disc is typically treated with conservative options, but in severe cases or when conservative treatment fails, bulging disc surgery is required.