A bulging disc happens when the wall of a spinal disc weakens and extends beyond normal parameters. Usually they do not extend far enough to cause any symptoms, which is why many people have a bulging disc without realizing it. Symptoms only occur when the bulging disc presses on a nearby nerve root or the spinal cord. In these cases, patients can experience debilitating pain.
Bulging disc symptoms include:
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling/pins and needles
The type and severity of symptoms will vary from patient to patient, but usually involve a combination of the above symptoms.
Location of symptoms
These symptoms will begin at a certain point in the body and radiate outward. The area in which they manifest depends on the location of the bulging disc in the body. For example, if the affected disc is located in the cervical spine or upper back, then the pain and other symptoms will begin in the upper back or neck and extend out into the shoulder, arm and/or upper back. If the disc is located in the lower back or lumbar spine, then the symptoms will be found in the lower back, buttocks, leg and into the foot.
Depending on the location of the symptoms, your everyday activities could be affected. For example, symptoms in the upper back could decrease your ability to lift heavy objects or symptoms in the lower back could affect your ability to walk.
How to treat bulging disc symptoms
There are many options available to treat bulging disc symptoms. Most patients begin with noninvasive treatments such as medication, physical therapy, exercise, hot/cold compresses, additional rest and other nonsurgical means. Discuss with your physician what options may be best for you.
If your symptoms persist after attempting these treatments for at least a few weeks, surgery may become an option. The two most common forms of surgical treatment include traditional open spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery. Traditional open spine surgery helps some patients find relief from their bulging disc symptoms, but usually involves large incisions, hospitalization and a long recovery period.
Minimally invasive spine surgery, on the other hand, can be performed on an outpatient basis. These advanced decompression and stabilization procedures help relieve neck and back pain by decompressing nerves at each level of the spine using state-of-the-art technology and small incisions.
If your bulging disc symptoms have affected your quality of life, speak to your physician about potential treatment options.