Bulging disc symptoms
Bulging disc symptoms are primarily caused when a spinal disc comes into contact with a nearby spinal nerve. Because these nerves are in charge of transmitting sensory, motor and autonomic signals from the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) to the rest of the body (the peripheral nervous system), compression from a bulging disc can cause symptoms to be far reaching.
Pain, tingling, weakness and other signs of neural distress that are transferred along the entire path of the nerve are referred to as radiculopathy. The location of these bulging disc symptoms will depend on which level of the spine is affected by the degenerated disc and which spinal nerve is being compressed. While symptoms will vary from person to person, they may include:
- Cervical (neck/upper back) region — pain, tingling and numbness that can stay in the neck but that may also travel through the shoulders, upper arms, forearms, hands and fingers.
- Lumbar (lower back) region — the most common region for bulging disc symptoms to develop. Pain, weakness and tingling can affect the lower back, buttocks, hips, legs and feet. This set of symptoms, often referred to as sciatica, is common if the bulging disc presses on the sciatic nerve.
Treatment for bulging disc symptoms
The majority of people who experience discomfort associated with a bulging disc will likely be able to find relief with a course of conservative (nonsurgical) treatments. Your primary care physician may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), hot and cold compresses, gentle stretching, low-impact exercise or corticosteroid injections.
If your bulging disc symptoms grow severe and persist for longer than three months despite nonsurgical treatment approaches, your physician may recommend surgery. The two main surgery options for a bulging disc are traditional open spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery.
While both options attempt to treat the root cause of bulging disc symptoms, minimally invasive spine surgery is often the safer and more effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery. Minimally invasive spine surgery includes both decompression and stabilization procedures that utilize small incisions to remove the affected portion of the disc that has bulged out of place without cutting muscle and creating scar tissue. These procedures are usually performed on an outpatient basis.
To learn more about bulging disc symptoms and how to treat them, speak with your physician about your options.