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Common Conditions

Neck Neurological Dysfunction

25/09/2020

Neurological dysfunction such as shooting pain or tingling sensations in the neck is one of the many symptoms of the common condition known as a disc bulge.

The spine consists of vertebrae which have 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.

The most common cause of the condition may be due to the natural ageing process combined with other risk factors. Discs may become more vulnerable over time. 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 combined with high contact sports or activities are also risk factors. Runners who fail to use shoes that provide orthopaedic support may also develop bulging discs. Activities that place stress and strain on the spine can lead to the weakening of the discs.

If a bulging disc has not yet reached the stage of herniation, one 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.

Common symptoms include tingling or pain in the fingers, hands, arms, neck or shoulders. This could indicate a bulging disc in the cervical area. Most patients with bulging discs have problems occurring in the lumbar area. These types of symptoms can arise by pain in the feet, thighs, lower spine and buttocks. Difficulty walking may also present. 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. 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.

Physical therapy plays a primary role in recovery for patients suffering from bulging discs particularly given that surgical intervention is often not opted. Both passive and active methods of physical therapy can be used to reduce pain and improve mobility. Passive physical therapy techniques for bulging discs usually include manual therapy, heat and ice therapy and electro-stimulation therapy. Active treatments include core strengthening exercises, stretching, and exercises to strengthen the back, legs, and arms. Most disc problems improve without surgery and return to normal function. If in doubt, seek professional advice.