Bulging Cervical Disc

Unfortunately, this is a very common problem. Many people can even have a bulging cervical disc and not feel any neck pain yet. Should the bulging cervical disc eventually rupture and thus possibly impinge a nerve, the patient will have many symptoms.

Assume, for instance, that we are looking at an otherwise healthy male who works in construction on the job site. Part of his job is to pick up cement bags out of the delivery truck and onto the site. His neck had hurt for a good while, but never as much as now, and so he presents to his doctor. He has begun to feel sharp, fiery pain in his lower neck, some stiffness or inflexibility accompanied by pain downward of his left arm. He also says that he has been experiencing numbness in his first finger as well as his thumb.

The doctor ascertained the range of motion of his neck and found that there were restrictions in the lateral bending and rotation. Sensation was not the same in the left first finger or thumb as it was in the right first finger and thumb. The doctor continued the exam by bending back the patient's neck and moving it to the side, and in response, the patient felt an increase in his arm pain.

The patient was then sent to get an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) done to his neck. The MRI showed a bulging cervical disc.

Of course then the doctor explained what would happen next. Treatment would encompass a trial course of conservative care including home care, exercises, physiotherapy and extremely gentle spinal distraction. This trial treatment would be continued for one month and then he would be re-evaluated. If the condition was not improved, or if the condition worsened, the construction worker would be referred to a spinal surgeon specialist for another evaluation.

The patient was also given alternative therapies, consisting of non-forceful procedures such as muscle techniques, hot and cold packs, and electrotherapies. He was also told that when he began to improve, that a therapist would teach him exercises that would be used to strengthen those neck muscles as well as flexibility exercises that would help to maintain the newly increased spinal motions.

Assuming that our construction worker did not improve despite all of these measures, he then would be sent to the spinal surgeon specialist. Another MRI would be ordered, and the surgeon would use the results to give his assessment. Other diagnostic tools would probably be used too, in order to ascertain exactly what was going on with the patient's neck. These would include nerve conduction velocity and electromyography, which would indicate nerve damage as well as weakness in the muscles via the nerve and muscle responses to electrical stimulation. Further tests would include a myelogram to reveal a pinched nerve, and a computerized tomography which is actually a 2-D spinal image to further assess damage.

All of these tests would reveal the exact nature of the construction worker's bulging cervical disc and probably would indicate what should be done next by the spinal surgeon specialist. Chances are that the construction worker will surgically receive either a donor bone disc (allograft), or other bone that has been harvested from his own body (autograft) to relieve the pain and problems due to his bulging cervical disc.


If you're interested in more info you can read about herniated cervical disk here.