What is a bulging disc?
A bulging disc happens when a spinal disc protrudes from the normal space it occupies out into the spinal canal. If the bulging disc puts pressure on a nearby nerve root it results in painful symptoms such as muscle weakness, muscle spasms, abnormal reflexes, numbness, tingling and radiating pain.
Can a bulging disc cause overactive reflexes?
Nerve roots contain sensory fibers and motor fibers. The sensory fibers supply sensation to your skin and body while the motor fibers are responsible for helping certain muscle groups move. When a bulging disc compresses a nerve it becomes inflamed and is unable to function properly. A compressed nerve can cause reflexes to produce exaggerated responses or depressed responses. When a nerve is damaged and not functioning properly it can produce exaggerated reflex responses such as muscle spasms and overactive reflexes. A damaged nerve can also produce depressed reflex responses such as being unable to raise toes or walk on the heel; the reflex shows little or no reaction.
If you suspect that you are experiencing sensory or muscular issues caused by a bulging disc, your physician will conduct a physical examination to confirm the diagnosis. Your physician will perform tests that target your reflexes, nerves and muscular strength. The examination might include:
- Having you walk on your toes
- Having you walk on your heels
- Having you walk on the soles of your feet
- Gently striking various parts of your body with a small rubber hammer
What are bulging disc treatment options?
Treatment for a bulging disc that is causing overactive reflexes typically starts with a few months of conservative treatment. A combination of conservative treatment options typically provides patients with pain relief and symptom control. Conservative treatment options for a bulging disc include:
- Pain medication
- Exercise and stretching
- Heat and ice therapy
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections
After a few months if you still have not found bulging disc symptom control with conservative treatment options, surgery may be indicated. It is important to treat a bulging disc causing muscular symptoms because left untreated it can lead to permanent muscle and nerve damage.