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Education: Types of Bulging Disks and their Symptoms

Posted on in Pain

A bulging disc in your back causes a variety of painful symptoms. Bulging discs occur when an intervertebral disc balloons out at a weak spot in your spine, putting pressure on your spinal cord and nerves.

Symptoms vary, depending on where the bulging disc is located in your spine. There are three areas of your spine where a bulging disc can occur.

Cervical Bulging Discs

istock_3226160_medium-1A cervical bulging disc is located in your neck. Symptoms can include pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. If the spinal cord is compressed, myelopathy can occur. Myelopathy makes walking difficult and causes you to lose fine motor skills.

Thoracic Bulging Discs

These bulging discs occur between the collar bone and end of your rib cage. While bulging discs in the thoracic region are rare, they can occur. The symptom is primarily upper back pain that extends to the chest or stomach. Often, patients assume there’s something wrong with their heart, lungs or stomach when they actually have a thoracic bulging disc. The only way to know for certain is by having an MRI of your spine.

Lumbar Bulging Discs

The lumbar region extends from your waist to your hips and includes five or six vertebrae. Most bulging discs occur in this area and are the most common source of lower back pain. The type of pain varies. It can be dull, sharp, burning or it may radiate to your glutes, legs and feet. These bulging discs can also cause weakness, numbness and muscle spasms in your legs.

Because of the location, symptoms can be exacerbated when you cough, sneeze or bend over. A lumbar bulging disc also puts pressure on your sciatic nerve which causes pain, numbness and tingling in your right leg. Additionally, these types of bulging discs sometimes cause the loss of bladder or bowel control. Although rare, in these cases, seek emergency treatment as the bulging disc could be compressing a nerve bundle. Immediate surgery is usually required.

Treatment of Bulging Discs

Doctors initially use conservative means to treat bulging discs. Pain relievers, steroid injections, stretches, physical therapy and chiropractic care are often used to treat the symptoms. However, if these measures don’t provide relief, surgery may be required.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a bulging disc and have not found relief through non-invasive means, consult Southeast Orthopedics for a consultation. Surgery may be your best option to alleviate symptoms.

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