The small, circular bones (vertebrae) that make up the spine are cushioned by pliable discs. Serving as shock absorbers, these discs feature soft, gel-like cores and tough, rubbery exteriors. When sudden force or years of wear and tear cause the disc’s core to “bulge” outward into the spinal canal, it’s referred to as a bulging disc.
Tampa General Hospital’s Neuroscience Institute is home to a diverse team of specialists who provide comprehensive care for bulging discs and other spinal conditions. Our wide-ranging neurological services and innovative treatments are evidenced by our “high performing” designation from U.S. News & World Report for 2023-24, meaning we’re ranked in the top 10% of hospitals nationwide for Neurology and Neurosurgery.
Bulging Disc Causes
There are several factors that can contribute to a bulging disc in the spine, including injuries sustained during vigorous exercise, contact sports or car accidents. The most common culprit behind bulging discs, however, is simply the body’s natural aging process. As years go by, spinal discs gradually deteriorate and become more vulnerable to injury.
Certain factors can accelerate spinal deterioration and increase a person’s risk of experiencing a bulging disc. These include:
- Performing high-impact exercises
- Frequently lifting heavy objects
- Being overweight
- Maintaining poor posture
Symptoms of a Bulging Disc
Bulging discs may not cause any noticeable symptoms. However, if the protruding area of the disc presses against a nearby spinal nerve, the following symptoms can occur:
- Numbness or tingling sensations in the shoulders or extremities
- Pain that radiates to other areas of the body
- Muscle weakness or reduced coordination
A bulging disc that pinches a nerve in the lumbar (lower) spine can lead to sciatica—a group of symptoms that can cause pain and numbness throughout the lower body.
Bulging Disc Diagnosis
A physician can typically diagnose a bulging disc by assessing a patient’s symptoms and performing a brief physical and neurological exam. In some cases, an imaging test may be ordered to view detailed pictures of the spine and rule out other, more serious problems.
Bulging Disc Treatments
Bulging disc symptoms can often be managed or even reversed through nonsurgical treatments like physical therapy. However, surgery may be recommended to relieve spinal nerve compression in more severe cases that don’t respond to conservative approaches. TGH’s Neuroscience Institute excels in performing minimally invasive, robot-assisted spine procedures that utilize state-of-the-art spinal navigation systems.
To schedule an appointment and discuss bulging disc treatment options with a specialist, contact Tampa General Hospital’s Neuroscience Institute today at (800) 822-3627 or use our Find a Doctor database to find a neurosurgery spine specialist.