When many people think about the pain caused by a bulging disc, they often think about pain in the neck or back, wherever the disc in located in the spine. What some people don’t realize is that this pain can travel. You may experience radiating leg pain from a bulging disc in the lower back (lumbar spine); you may also feel radiating arm pain or chronic headaches from a bulging disc in the neck (cervical spine).
In fact, for a bulging disc in the lower back, radiating pain is one of the most common symptoms. To understand why this happens, you must first understand the nerve pathways near the spine and the impact of a bulging disc on these nerves.
What causes radiating leg pain from a bulging disc?
Radiating leg pain from a bulging disc often occurs if the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spine is pinched by the damaged disc.
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and runs on both sides of the lumbar spine into the buttocks, legs and feet. If this nerve is compressed, the following bulging disc symptoms can radiate from the lower back into the legs and feet:
- Muscle weakness
- Burning sensation
- Limited mobility
- Slowed reflexes
If you’ve been experiencing radiating leg pain from a bulging disc or any of the other symptoms mentioned above, you should schedule an appointment with your physician to determine the best course of treatment for your pain relief.
Treatments for radiating leg pain from a bulging disc
Typically, your doctor will begin a series of conservative treatments to help reduce your leg pain caused by a bulging disc. Please note, if your radiating leg pain results in a loss of bladder or bowel control, seek immediate medical attention as this is an emergency situation. If your doctor decides conservative treatment is your best option for pain relief, he or she will likely recommend a combination of the following nonsurgical treatment options:
- Pain medication
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic care
- Stretching and yoga
- Lifestyle changes like weight loss
- Corticosteroid injections
If these treatments do not provide relief after several weeks or months, your doctor may recommend spine surgery as your next step for pain relief. Spine surgery can be performed as traditional open back surgery or minimally invasive spine surgery. Be sure to ask your doctor about the benefits of both options and research the proven advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery over traditional open back surgery on your own. Your doctor can discuss your options with you and help you choose the best treatment plan for your needs.