Typically, a bulging disc in the neck or back is thought to cause pain and limited mobility in the neck or back. While these are definitely the most common symptoms of this condition, there are other possible symptoms, including muscular weakness from a bulging disc.

In fact, many people experience muscular weakness from a bulging disc and never identify it as a symptom of a spine condition. This common misconception can cause the condition to go undiagnosed for a long time, which may lead to increased spinal damage and painful symptoms. Identifying muscular weakness as bulging disc symptom can help you and your doctor diagnose your condition faster, which can help you find a treatment for your pain and symptoms before they become unbearable.

What causes muscular weakness from a bulging disc?

Muscular weakness from a bulging disc is not the most common symptom, but it can occur if the bulging disc compresses a nerve root near the spine. These spinal nerve roots are part of the central nervous system and are responsible for relaying pain signals and motor skills between the brain, muscles and nerve paths. When one of these nerves becomes pinched by a bulging disc, pain and symptoms may travel from the spine into the nearest extremity, such as the arm or leg.

If the nerve is compressed by a severe bulging disc, the attached muscles may be affected. This could lead to a pause in signals sent between the muscle and the pinched nerve, which may result in muscle weakness and delayed reflexes.

Other symptoms of a bulging disc may include:

  • Local and radiating pain
  • Muscle tingling
  • Numbness
  • Burning sensation
  • Limited mobility

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms for longer than a week, you should contact your primary care doctor for a physical evaluation to determine the source of your symptoms.

Treatment for muscular weakness from a bulging disc

If your doctor diagnoses you with a bulging disc, you typically have two types of treatment options: conservative and surgical. Most doctors will begin with conservative treatment, though some emergency situations may warrant immediate surgery.

Conservative treatments for a bulging disc often include a combination of the following methods:

  • Pain medication
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Physical therapy
  • Lifestyle changes, e.g. weight loss and exercise
  • Yoga and stretching
  • Corticosteroid injections

These treatments focus on relieving the symptoms of a bulging disc while the disc heals. For many people, a combination of conservative treatments offers effective relief after several months of consistent therapy. However, some people may not find relief from these methods and should explore a surgical option for pain relief.

Spine surgery for a bulging disc has two main options: traditional open spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery. While traditional open spine surgery has been around longer, minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and more effective alternative. Ask your doctor about the surgical options available to you to help reduce your muscle weakness from a bulging disc.