The natural aging process and everyday wear and tear cause the spine to go through degenerative changes. The degenerative changes cause the discs in the spine to lose water content and flatten. A bulging disc is a disc in the spine that is protruding out of the normal space it occupies in between vertebrae and into the spinal column.
What are bulging disc symptoms?
A bulging disc can cause local pain and symptoms from the actual damaged disc. A bulging disc can also create symptoms if the disc puts pressure on a nearby nerve root causing a pinched nerve. A bulging disc located anywhere in the spine can cause any of the following symptoms:
- Localized pain
- Radiating pain
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle spasms
- Pins-and-needles sensation
Symptoms can be intermittent, dull and achy, sharp, burning or progressive.
Can bulging disc symptoms affect other parts of the body?
If you have a bulging disc located in your cervical spine, or neck region, you may have localized pain in your neck. Pain and symptoms may also radiate from your neck to your shoulder. Symptoms can continue to the arm and down the hand and into the fingers.
If you have a bulging disc located in your thoracic spine, or middle of the back, you may have localized pain in the middle of your back along with symptoms in other parts of your body. A thoracic bulging disc can cause pain and symptoms in the shoulder, arms, fingers, chest and abdomen.
Even though the bulging disc is located in the neck, causing nerve damage in the neck, the pain and symptoms can be experienced in other parts of the body, especially the shoulder. When a nerve is compressed it becomes inflamed and is unable to function properly. This results in signals of pain being sent along the path of the nerve to other parts of the body.
Bulging disc treatment
If you have been experiencing painful symptoms due to a bulging disc, your physician will recommend a combination of conservative treatments to manage your symptoms and relieve pain. Conservative treatment for bulging disc symptoms includes rest, heat and ice therapy, exercise and stretching, physical therapy, lifestyle modification and pain medication. If after a few months of conservative treatment you are still experiencing disruptive symptoms, your physician will likely recommend bulging disc surgery.