A bulging disc in the neck, or a cervical bulging disc, can cause painful symptoms that make everyday activities unbearable. Turning your head to get dressed or looking over your shoulder while driving can cause such pain that these activities seem impossible.

What is a bulging disc in the neck?

The cervical spine, the upper region that includes the neck, is composed of seven vertebrae. The vertebrae, except for the first two located directly under the skull, are cushioned by spinal discs that aid in stability, movement and absorb shock. A bulging disc in the neck occurs when one of the cervical discs becomes compressed and protrudes out of the normal space it occupies and into the spinal canal. The bulging portion of the cervical disc can put excess pressure on surrounding nerve roots or the spinal cord causing painful symptoms. Symptoms of a bulging disc in the neck include:

  • Localized pain in the neck
  • Radiating pain through the shoulder, arms and fingers
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of fine motor skills, especially in the fingers
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Pins-and-needles sensations

What causes a bulging disc in the neck?

The natural aging process can cause a bulging disc in the neck. The tough outer layer of the discs gradually loose water content and elasticity over the years. This makes the discs less effective at absorbing pressure and shock placed on them from everyday wear and tear. A bulging disc in the neck can also be caused by an injury, trauma, bad posture, lifestyle choices or a genetic predisposition.

How do you treat a bulging disc in the neck?

For most people that experience a bulging disc in the neck, conservative treatment options are an effective means to control symptoms. Conservative treatment options for a bulging disc in the neck include:

  • Rest
  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Heat and ice therapy
  • Exercise and stretching
  • Activity modification
  • Lifestyle modification

If after a few months, conservative treatment has not relieved painful symptoms, bulging disc surgery should be discussed. If left untreated, a bulging disc in the neck can lead to permanent nerve or muscle damage and limited mobility.