One of the potential causes of neck pain is a bulging disc in your neck. Bulging discs occur if one of the discs in your spine pushes back into your spinal canal. As a refresher, these discs are filled with gel. They help your spine move and absorb shocks. It is most common for bulging discs to bulge to either the right or left.
As a reminder, bulging discs can occur due to wear and tear from aging or degenerative disc disease. It can also happen due to injury. People with poor posture, obesity, low activity levels, injuries, strains, or who smoke have a higher risk of bulging discs.
What Are the Symptoms of a Bulging Disc in Your Neck?
Your experience with a bulging disc can vary. Some people will not notice any issues. Others will have severe pain throughout their arms, chest, and shoulders. You may also notice weakness or numbness in your fingers and arms.
Overall, you may notice the following symptoms with a bulging disc in your neck:
- Pain in your back, neck, and shoulders
- Pain when you move
- Reduced mobility and range of motion
- Tingling or numbness in your arms, fingers, or shoulders
It is common for a bulging disc’s symptoms to worsen when you are more active and feel better when you are resting.
A Note on Bulging Discs vs. Herniated Discs
You may sometimes hear the terms bulging disc and herniated disc used interchangeably, but they are not technically the same. If your disc is herniated, it has a rupture. A bulging disc bulges out of its area but without a rupture.
Keep in mind that an untreated bulging disc has the potential to be a herniated disc. That is just one reason to get treatment for a bulging disc in your neck.
Bulging Disc in Neck Treatment Options
Before you can start treatment for herniated disc neck issues, your doctor will likely run diagnostic tests. These can include MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, and EMGs.
Reducing Risk Factors
If you have any of the risk factors for a bulging disc, your doctor may want to address those in your treatment. For example, if you are obese, your bulging cervical disc treatment may include a plan to help you lose weight. Or if you smoke, it may include a strategy to help you quit.
Your initial bulging cervical disc treatment will usually be a conservative one. This means that it will not involve surgeries. It is common to start with non-invasive treatment options first, as they have a lower risk of complications.
One of the most common treatments for a bulging disc in the neck is medicine to help control the pain. Your doctor will typically start by prescribing nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. If your pain still persists, you may get a prescription for a narcotic or a muscle relaxer.
Physical Therapy and Chiropractic Care
Your doctor may suggest chiropractic or physical therapy for herniated discs. Careful movements guided by an expert can help relieve the pressure your disc places on the nerve. That, in turn, can help relieve your symptoms.
Your physical therapist will give you some gentle exercises to complete. They will also help you with your form when walking and lifting objects, as well as your posture. Your chiropractor will adjust your spine to bring it into proper alignment and help relieve pain.
Your treatment may also include gentle exercises that you can do at home. They will typically include both gentle stretches and exercises designed to strengthen your muscles.
Your treatment may also include a traction device to use at home. This type of device also relieves symptoms by reducing the pressure on your nerves.
If your problems persist, your doctor may suggest surgery to treat the bulging disc in the neck. Some patients need part of the disc removed in surgery. You may also need to have a cervical screen or plate placed to stabilize your spine. Surgery is not very common, with only around 10 percent of patients with a bulging disc requiring it.
Do Bulging Discs in Neck Heal?
It is possible for a bulging disc in your neck to heal on its own, but it is not likely without treatment. There is also a high risk that your symptoms will get worse without treatment. As mentioned earlier, a bulging disc can become a herniated disc if left alone.
With proper treatment, however, you can heal a bulging disc. To schedule an appointment with Comprehensive Healthcare Group, call our Oceanside, NY office at 516.764.7760 or our Valley Stream, NY office at 516.593.7990.