Bulging discs most commonly occur in the neck and the low back when a spinal disc has flattened and bulged out into the spinal canal.

What is a bulging disc in the back?

Bulging discs in the back, or the thoracic spine, are less likely as the mid back does not allow for much movement when compared to the flexibility of the neck and low back. The thoracic spine, or middle of the back, is attached to the rib cage and helps to support the rib cage and upper body. The symptoms of a bulging disc in the back can include any of the following:

  • Localized pain in the mid back region
  • Pain that radiates from the mid back region to the chest and abdomen
  • Pain that radiates from the mid back region to the neck arms and fingers
  • Pain that radiates from the mid back region to the legs, buttocks, feet and toes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pins-and-needles sensations, numbness and tingling

Because symptoms can present as chest or belly pain, most physicians will include an assessment of the heart, lungs, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract to rule out non-spine conditions or causes.

What activities can contribute to or aggravate a bulging disc in the back?

The following activities can contribute to a bulging disc in the back, and can also aggravate an existing bulging disc in the back:

  • Bad posture including slouching and rounded shoulders
  • Lifting with a twisting motion
  • Bending forward to pick something up
  • Sitting for a long period of time, especially leaning forward
  • Bending forward with your arms in front of your body such as driving or washing dishes

If you have a bulging disc in the back, coughing and sneezing can also exacerbate the pain.

Bulging disc in the back treatment

Treatment for a bulging disc in the back typically starts with a combination of conservative treatment. Conservative treatment options include:

  • Rest
  • Pain medication
  • Exercise and stretching
  • Heat and ice therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections

If after a few months of conservative treatment the bulging disc in your back is still causing symptoms that disrupt your life, your physician may recommend bulging disc surgery.