The cervical vertebrae, also known as your neck bones, play a significant role supporting the weight of your head and allowing you to pivot your head a full 180 degrees. Because these vertebrae are weight-bearing and allow for flexibility and movement, they are susceptible to developing degenerative spine conditions and bulging discs.
What is a bulging disc in the neck?
A bulging disc in the neck is a disc in the cervical spine that is bulging or protruding out of the normal space that it occupies and into the spinal column. As you age, the spine goes through degenerative changes that cause the discs in the spine to lose water content, flatten and become more susceptible to damage. A bulging disc in the neck can also be caused by trauma, injury or genetic predisposition.
Symptoms of a bulging disc in the neck
A bulging disc in the neck does not always cause symptoms and pain. If the disc bulges and puts excess pressure on a surrounding nerve root or the spinal cord, the bulging disc and resulting pinched nerve can cause several painful and troublesome symptoms including:
- Localized pain in the neck
- Radiating pain that travels from the neck to a shoulder, down the arm and to the hand and fingers
- Muscle weakness in your arms or fingers
- Numbness, tingling or pins-and-needles sensations in your neck, shoulder, arm or hand
- Pain in your chest that can be similar to a heart attack
- Headaches or possibly even migraine headaches
Treatment of a bulging disc in the neck
Surgery is not a primary form of treatment for a bulging disc, but a last resort if conservative treatment fails. If you have been experiencing painful symptoms due to a bulging disc in the neck, the first round of treatment is a combination of conservative options. Conservative treatment options for a bulging disc in the neck includes:
- Heat and ice therapy
- Exercise and stretching
- Physical therapy
- Pain medication
- Steroid injections
If after a few months of conservative treatment you are still experiencing painful symptoms caused by a bulging disc in the neck, your physician will likely recommend bulging disc surgery.