If you have been experiencing arm pain, along with other disruptive symptoms, you might be wondering what is causing your symptoms, what your treatment options are and if you will require surgery.

What is a bulging disc?

The spine is composed of vertebrae, muscles, ligaments, tendons and spinal discs. The spinal discs are located in between each of the vertebrae and help to support the spine, aid in flexibility and absorb shock. These discs have a tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosis and a soft gel-like inner layer called the nucleus pulposus. The tough outer layer can become flattened, less elastic, brittle and susceptible to damage due to the aging process and everyday wear and tear on the spine. If the tough outer layer is flattened and protrudes from the normal space it occupies between the vertebrae and out into the spinal column, it is called a bulging disc.

What are bulging disc symptoms?

A bulging disc does not always produce symptoms and is a fairly common finding among adults over the age of 50. When a bulging disc compresses a nearby nerve root, it can cause very painful and disruptive symptoms such as:

  • Localized pain
  • Radiating pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Pins-and-needles sensations
  • Headaches

Can a bulging disc cause arm pain?

Depending on the location of the bulging disc, pain can radiate to the extremities. If you have a bulging disc in your cervical spine, or the neck region of the spine, the pinched nerve can send pain signals from the neck, to the shoulder, down the arm, all the way to the hand and fingers. The bulging disc and pinched nerve can cause burning pain, throbbing pain, dull achy pain, numbness and muscle weakness to occur in the arm, even though the affected area is located in the neck.

Conservative treatment options for a bulging disc

Conservative treatment for a bulging disc includes a combination of the following treatment options:

  • Rest
  • Massage
  • Heat and ice therapy
  • Exercise and stretching
  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Complementary and alternative treatment

If conservative options are unsuccessful, your physician may recommend steroid injections or surgical intervention in order to relieve your bulging disc symptoms and prevent permanent nerve and muscle damage.