Mr. Shuaibu Dambatta | Consultant Neurosurgeon | Complex Spine Surgeon | +44 7940973565 |


What Is a Bulging Disc?

Your spine consists of vertebrae which have spinal discs in between to act as a shock absorber, preventing damage to the spinal tissue and bone.

They also help to make movement easier. Discs have a hard casing and liquid-like center. Movement or slipping of the disc from its normal positioning results in an outward swelling of the fluid material throughout the weakest point of the shell of the disc. In many cases, the disc balloons in between spaces in the vertebrae. This process happens over an extended period. The longer that a condition progresses, the worse the symptoms will become. Bulging discs may refer to a protruding disc.


If a bulging disc has not yet reached the stage of herniation, a patient may have little to no pain involved. A bulging disc may have no pain at all because it has not reached a certain severity level, and this can make it difficult to identify the bulging disc symptoms before the condition becomes more severe.

Most commonly, bulging discs create pressure points on nearby nerves which create a variety of sensations. Evidence of a bulging disc may range from mild tingling and numbness to moderate or severe pain, depending on the severity. In most cases, when a bulging disc has reached this stage it is near or at herniation.

  • Tingling or pain in the fingers, hands, arms, neck or shoulders. This could indicate a bulging disc in the cervical area.
  • Pain in the feet, thighs, lower spine and buttocks. This is the most common symptom and could indicate an issue in the lumbar region.
  • Difficulty walking or feeling of impairment while lifting or holding things.

These symptoms require immediate medical evaluation as they may be a sign of a potentially life-threatening condition.

When the sciatic nerve is affected, the sensations are present down one leg or the other, but usually not both. Bladder incontinence can occur because of a bulging disc compressing the nerves that control the bladder. In this case, seek emergency medical help immediately. Upper back pain radiating to the stomach or chest may be a symptom of a mid-spine bulging disc. Muscle spasms may also occur with any bulging disc. While some patients may go on for years without disturbing symptoms, others may experience extreme or life threatening consequences.


You, the client, may be the best resource for determining the cause of bulging disc. Your physician will ask a series of questions about your lifestyle and the type of physical activity you’ve performed throughout your life.

The most common cause of the condition may be due to the natural aging process and disc degeneration combined with other risk factors. Discs may become more vulnerable over time.

Potential Causes for a Bulging Disc


  • People who have led a sedentary lifestyle or those who smoke increase the chances for bulging disc.
  • Continuous strain on the disc from injury or heavy lifting and strain can wear them down throughout the years.
  • Weakened back muscles can accelerate the process and may lead to a sudden herniation of the weakened disc.
  • Although bulging discs occur over time, herniated discs may occur quickly by trauma.
  • Bad posture including improper body positioning during sleep, sitting, standing or exercise are all risk factors which may contribute to the development of a bulging disc.
  • Obesity
  • High contact sports or activities are also risk factors.
  • Runners who fail to use shoes that provide orthopedic support may also develop bulging discs.
  • Activities that place stress and strain on the spine can lead to the weakening of the discs.