Bulging Disc in Neck Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
When bulging of discs in the neck occurs it can lead to permanent nerve damage. This is what Many including Mary fear. Is there reason to worry and what exactly should you do?
Mary is a 41 years old female living in Canada, for the last six years she has been having a problem of bulging of her C3-6 disks. It was during her last child birth that it developed. It has been terrible and according to her no one who has not had the same can very well understand the situation.
When she shared her story with her friends, they told her it was a stiff neck, but with time she has actually come to understand it is not.
She has a lot of pain in her neck and also in her right arm. Her little finger is completely numb. This kills her morale but in most of the days it is okay.
With the help of some family members, she realized a massage would do some good. She therefore has been doing it and it has helped her a lot. However, the bulging has not died out though the pain goes away for sometimes.
This has caused her a lot of discomfort, she really dreams to get out of the problem completely. However, she has to understand the causes and treatment of bulging of discs in her neck.
Here are causes, symptoms and treatments of bulging discs in the neck that Mary went through and have responded positively.
Bulging of a disc is normal disc structure change due to various reasons. The spine is made up of interlinked vertebral discs which are named differently according to the region they are located and the shape. At your neck region they are referred to as cervical discs.
In the spine is a hollow structure and it is through this hollow opening that some nerves are housed. However, some of them leave the spine through openings at the end of the discs. Where one disc connects to the immediate one so that it covers the parts of the body outside the spine.
A good reference point is a raw (raw in the sense that it is still connected to the source or main tree) piece of stick. When it is cut and placed on some grounds to dry, it will change its shape in most cases. It will appear slightly bent and in the origin it was straight. The same case with a piece of wood, immediately it is split from the main tree, it will appear very straight, but after sometimes it will bend and appear slightly curved.
The same case happens with cervical discs. They are well aligned during the early ages of life. As some condition sets in such as age and several other conditions it bulges out, or rather it protrudes more than the usual. Therefore bulging is loss of shape or additional deposition of mass on the disc.
Causes of bulging of cervical discs.
Bulging of the cervical discs may involve any of the vertebral discs, C1-C7 or all. These discs are made of spongy fibro-cartilaginous materials that act as a natural shock absorber. The discs therefore provide cushion between the rigid bony vertebrae allowing your back and neck to move and flex.
The discs are placed each on top of the other one and they effectively coordinate the movements of your neck. When a disc bulges, it expands out of the normal space in the spinal column. It may also probably decrease the spaces in between one disc and the other. The spaces through which nerves leave the spine to the other body parts are hampered with.
This bulging will start pushing on the nerve roots or the spinal cord. The nerve(s) will become irritated as a result. Some of the causes are.
A big cause and contributor of bulging is age. The parts of your car that you bought some few years back are worn out and now and then you are always visiting your mechanic for some replacements, right?
The same way parts of your car wears out, those of your body also tear and wear out due to age and continued use. Over the years, the intervertebral discs tend to weaken and become misshapen. This will result in a bulge. It will protrude.
Trauma can be as a result of physical injury on the neck. A car accident for example may lead to complete distortation of the cervical discs. This may lead to bulging. Another type of trauma is a blunt trauma. This is where a hard material falls or hits your neck. In this case the discs will also be affected and they will bulge. This will place stress on the neck.
3. Herniated disc
This is a situation where disc brakes open and the soft inner material leaks out into the spinal canal. This rupturing of the disc will lead to bulging.
Symptoms of cervical disc bulging
There are various symptoms of bulging. They vary depending on the severity of the bulging. Here are some of the symptoms;
1. Neck stiffness
Stiff neck causes discomfort due to the pain that comes with it. It results due to injury, spending long hours in front (working) of your computer, improper posture while sleeping and stress among other factors. Stiff neck will cause severe, throbbing pain while in some other times it is a constant dull pain. Whatever the pain, what you will require is a quick relief.
With a stiff neck, there will be a lot of pain when you try to make any movements. Though it is a widespread problem, it is mostly reported among people between the ages of 20 to 40. When this problem is not looked into, then this stiffness will get extended to the back region in no time, this will result in back pains.
Due to the bulging, the disc will affect your neck muscles in addition to the nerves. As a result you will tend to experience some pains on the spot where the disc is bulged. The effect on the on the immediate parts of the disc will lead to a headache.
Remember also with the bulging, many the spine which starts from the brain is tampered with. As a result, communication will also be tampered with hence the headaches. They will be more rampant in the first days after bulging.
3. Weakness and numbness
At the point where bulging of your disc occurs is the point which the nerves are entrapped. Entrapping will come to be as a result of constriction and compression of the nerves at the nerve roots.
This will lead to a general weakness of the neck, it will tend to lose sensation and become numb. The neck region that is affected will appear dead and nonfunctional. However, this will spread from the neck to the shoulders.
Your shoulders will have an effect equal to your neck. You may wonder how but this is because the nerves that serve your shoulders branch from your neck.
Your arms, hands, wrists and fingers will also become numb. They will tend to be less receptive or respond to any changes happening in or around them.
At the spot where the bulging disc is located there will be severe pains. This is because the disc will occupy more space that when it was not bulged. This will mean that it will exert pressure on some other parts of your neck.
The act of bulging is also painful. The increase in mass or the protrusion is a painful process. Let’s look at a fracture. A fracture is instant and it changes the shape of a bone, due to this deformation, you will feel a lot of pain. The same way with bulging. The act of bulging is painful in itself.
The resultant pain is also due to the effect on the nerves and muscles. It will likely cause pinching of nerves and this will be painful. The pain will however not be in your neck region only, you will have some pains in the shoulders, arms and in this case the upper arms mostly and up to the fingers.
5. Weakness in the legs
Bulging of a cervical disc may compress the spinal cord. However, this is not always the case but again it is not to rule out the truth that it is likely to occur.
When it happens, your legs will experience weakness. This is because the nerves serving the legs will be tampered with in the spinal cord. In this case your legs may become numb.
Treatments of cervical disc bulging
The bulging of your cervical disc may be causing you neck pains hence turning out to be an uncomfortable zone for you. There are three measures you will probably need to look into to do away with the problem. Here are the three treatments;
1) Neck brace
A neck brace is will support, align and hold the neck in position. It will limit movement around the nerve and allow it to recover. Additionally, it helps relieve the pressure that is being placed on that particular nerve.
When braced the neck will be immobile and the discs will be held in position. It also acts as a way to hold back any deformed disc so that it adapts back to its position. For this reason a neck collar will be used by medics to treat victims who develop the pinched nerve from an accident.
A neck collar will hold your neck such that chances of poor neck postures will not be present. It may however not be possible to have a neck collar at home but you can always improvise. Try bracing your neck with any hard material that will support and most importantly align it.
The first thing will need to do is to brace that part you feel there is a bulging or rather a pinched nerve this will immobilize it. There will be few or no movements and this will ensure that a proper posture is maintained. There will therefore be no excess pressure on that particular nerve in your neck as it was before bracing.
2) Neck Exercises
These are movements will enhance mobility of your neck and the vertebral discs in it. This will restore to original position any disc in case of bulging. They will also hold the cervical disc in the correct position. However, you will need to do more than exercises. Actually you will need to perform exercises later after employing other treatment measures.
Neck exercises help to stabilize neuromuscular parts. Exercises will reduce muscle stress. They include processes like neck isometrics which at the end of it all will help in releasing your trapezius muscle. The principal aim is to release the stress and revert the stressor or rather remove or return the stressor back to its position. This is not a one stand affair. It will require you to do the neck exercises now and again to revert the situation.
Neck exercises will include moving your head fast in less painful sides. Though you are experiencing that sharp pain as you try to move your neck it is necessary that you note the pain free directions. These will make you move your neck freely now and then. The importance of this is it will allow the other normal joints and discs in your neck to remain healthy. By moving your head the cause of the pinched nerve is weakened; you release the pressure and will definitely fully release it.
3) Pain Medication
The pain that comes from your neck or shoulder and arm causes discomfort. As you work out your way to remove the cause of bulging and pain in your nerve the pain is still evident. It is therefore worthwhile to control the pain levels with some medications.
Any ailment that you leave to progress always becomes severe and will definitely cost you more in terms of resources and personal comfort. The same case applies to the pain you are experiencing. Chronic pain can occur from a severe acute pain. Therefore when you use appropriate nerve medication it will lower your risk of developing chronic neck pain.
There exist different kinds of pain medications. You can however explore options of neurogenic pain medications or inflammatory pain medications. Neurogenic pain medications are specific to nerves while inflammatory ones are general, they can reduce pain in nerves including other parts.
If these treatments fail, and your pain is exceedingly severe such that it is affecting your ability to work and to enjoy leisure activities, then it may be necessary that a disc surgery be performed. This will entail hospitalization, general anesthesia and an extensive recovery period.
Remember bulging is common with old age, so engage in preventive measures as early before it probably gets to you. Physical therapy and a balanced diet will keep it a bay.