Bulging Disc Symptoms

Many people with bulging spinal discs never develop prominent symptoms. However, when they do appear, bulging disc symptoms can have a number of harmful effects.


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Symptoms by Location

Bulging discs cause problems when they push against your spinal cord or one of the nerve roots that extend outward from your spinal cord. Problems usually appear in one of two locations: the neck (cervical spine) or the lower back (lumbar spine). Some people develop issues in their upper back (thoracic spine) – although this is more rare, since the rib cage increases spinal stability in this region.

For each location, the bulging disc may generate symptoms including pain, tingling, numbness, burning or weakness. The location of your symptoms can help your physician locate the originating source of the pain.

Not all bulging discs cause symptoms. A bulging disc is a relatively common occurrence as we age, and may or may not be the ultimate source of your pain.

Neck Symptoms

Often called a pinched nerve, a bulging disc in your cervical spine can produce neck pain or other symptoms that affect one or both sides of the neck, as well as the back of your neck. Symptoms may also appear in the area near one or both of your shoulder blades. In addition, symptoms from a bulging disc in your cervical spine may extend outward through your shoulder(s), down into your arm(s) and (potentially) reach your hand(s) or fingers.

Specific movements may worsen your symptoms, including doing such things as rotating your neck or bending your neck forward, backward or sideways. Some people with bulging cervical discs experience uncontrollable spasming in the muscles that support the neck and head. The symptoms you experience from disc problems in your neck depend, in part, on whether a disc pushes against your spinal cord or a spinal nerve.

Lower Back Symptoms

Problematic bulging discs in your lower back typically press against your spinal nerve roots, not your spinal cord (which only reaches the top of the lumbar spine). In some cases, a disc may press against one of the nerve roots that eventually gather together and form the long sciatic nerve, which extends all the way from your lumbar spine to your feet. If this occurs, you will develop a grouping of symptoms known as sciatica.

Examples of lower back symptoms include mild, moderate or severe pain at some point between the buttocks and feet; burning sensations or tingling sensations at some point between the buttocks and feet; and numbness or unusual muscle weakness in the same region. While most people only develop sciatica symptoms on the left or right side of their bodies, some people develop problems on both sides of their bodies.

Upper Back Symptoms

Generally speaking, the symptoms of a bulging disc in your upper back are harder to characterize than problems that appear in your neck or lower back. Some people experience pain localized in the area of the thoracic spine, while others experience pain localized in the lower back region. Still others develop pain symptoms in their legs or in their abdominal regions. Like a person affected by a bulging disc in the lower back, a person with a problematic upper back disc may also experience unusual leg numbness or unusual leg muscle weakness.

How is Bulging Disc Treated?

Bulging Disc treatment depends on you – your specific physiology and how advanced your case is. The North American Spine medical team and your physician will thoroughly evaluate your situation and recommend a treatment plan to provide both maximum relief and minimum recovery time. Treatment plants are grouped into three categories:


Fusion or Stabilization