What Kind of Pain Does Bulging Disc Cause?

Bulging discs occur when one of the spinal discs that cushion the vertebrae in the spinal column extends out of its normal boundary. With age and everyday stresses, these discs can begin to lose their elasticity. This will cause them to become less able to withstand the pressure they’re being placed under by the upper body. These forces can result in a range of degenerative disc conditions, including collapsed discs, herniated discs, and bulging discs. 

A bulging disc is a relatively common issue and is not always painful. In fact, it is possible for one to develop without a person ever knowing it is there. However, if symptoms do develop, they can have a severe impact on nearly every part of your life. Symptoms can impact your relationships, your job, and your favorite hobbies. By having a better understanding of how this condition causes symptoms and what specific type of pain can develop, you can work with your doctor on a more informed basis when working on a treatment plan. 

Bulging Disc Symptoms

Pain from a bulging disc is typically the result of nerve compression. If a disc bulges out of its normal boundaries it can narrow the nerve pathways in the spine and put pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root. This may result in pain and other symptoms such as:

  • Localized pain and irritation
  • Shooting pains down the nerve pathway
  • Pins and needles sensations in the extremities
  • Numbness and muscle weakness

The location of radiating bulging disc pain depends on the location in the spinal column where the condition developed. A bulging disc in the cervical (upper) spine can affect the neck, arms, and hands, while a lumbar (lower) bulging disc generally causes symptoms in the lower back, hips, buttocks, and legs. 

Your Treatment Options

Upon diagnosis of a bulging disc the source of the pain and other symptoms, doctors will begin treatment with a course of conservative therapy. Bulging discs can heal on their own, so the goal of initial treatment is to manage pain, improve flexibility and take steps to promote the long-term health of the spine. Rest, low-impact exercises, physical therapy, over-the-counter medication, hot and/or cold compression therapy, and spinal injections are all effective nonsurgical options that help many patients return to a healthy active lifestyle. 

If a full course of conservative treatment has been attempted and symptoms remain debilitating or have worsened, you may be referred to a surgical specialist for a consultation. Patients exploring the possibility of spine surgery for a bulging disc should get in touch with our caring team at BEST Health System. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and more effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures. We offer our patients a streamlined outpatient experience. The procedures at BEST are performed by our board-certified surgeons, Dr. Girton and Dr. Abbott. Minimally invasive means our procedures use muscle-sparing techniques and an incision that is typically less than an inch. These benefits eliminate the need for an overnight hospital stay and reduce recovery time.