Bulging Disc – Can It Be Detected With Your Fingers

Sometimes people who are experiencing pain in their neck or back may feel some sort of bump or swelling when they touch the painful area. This will make them wonder whether that means they have a bulging disc. In these cases, it’s possible that the pain results from a bulging disc, but it’s not possible to detect the protruding disc itself by touching the neck or back. If you’re feeling a protrusion when you touch your neck or back with your fingertips, it’s likely to be the bony edge of your vertebrae or possibly a muscle spasm. The spinal discs that serve as shock absorbers for your vertebrae are located too far away from your skin for you to detect one with your fingertips. 

To obtain an accurate bulging disc diagnosis, you’ll need to consult with your doctor. They will ask about your symptoms and recent activities. Although they will likely conduct a physical exam that may include touching the painful area of your neck or back, your doctor will not expect a deteriorating disc with the fingertips. Typically, an MRI is needed to identify a bulging disc. 

Symptoms of a Bulging Disc

A bulging disc is a disc that has deteriorated as the result of an injury or natural aging. The disc’s tough outer shell has weakened and is protruding into the spinal canal that houses the spinal cord. This type of disc degeneration is quite common and frequently causes no symptoms at all. However, there are instances where a protruding disc will encroach on the spinal cord or an adjacent nerve. This can cause irritation and inflammation which in turn can result in several symptoms, including:

  • Severe pain and stiffness at the site of the affected nerve, usually in the neck or lower back
  • Pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness that radiate to the arms or legs
  • In rare cases, loss of bladder or bowel control; when this occurs it requires emergency medical treatment

Your Treatment Options

Once your bulging disc has been diagnosed, your doctor will likely encourage you to pursue conservative treatments. This can include hot and cold compresses, stretching exercises, and anti-inflammatory medications. Many people experience adequate relief from their symptoms with these types of remedies. However, others may experience little relief or their symptoms may grow worse, leading them to consider surgery as a treatment option. 

If you receive a bulging disc diagnosis and your symptoms don’t improve after you’ve tried conservative treatments you may be interested in minimally invasive surgery at BEST Health System as a treatment option. At BEST, our surgeons, Dr. Girton and Dr. Abbott are board-certified and passionate about getting patients back to their lifestyles.  Our minimally invasive outpatient procedure is a safer and more effective alternative to traditional open spine procedures. We use a less than one-inch incision which eliminated the need for an overnight hospital stay, reduces the overall risk of infection, and reduces recovery time. 

To learn more about the minimally invasive surgery performed at BEST Health System, contact us today!