A slipped disc in your neck usually means you’re in pain all day long. And a bulging disc not only causes you pain, it limits what you can do. Neither condition is pleasant, but both are treatable. Visit the NU-Spine medical facility in Edison, New Jersey for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Dr. Branko Skovrlj is a respected neurosurgeon who focuses on spine ailments and injuries. He can tell the difference between a cervical slipped disc and a cervical bulging disc. Call today to schedule an appointment.
Is a Slipped Disc or Bulging Disc Painful?
A cervical disc problem often translates into a chronic pain in your neck. Discs are the cushions between each of the seven cervical vertebral bones. One of the most common causes of neck pain is a cervical slipped disc or bulging disc. Both conditions occur when a weakened spinal disc encroaches on your spinal cord or root nerves.
Chronic neck pain and discomfort, even if it’s minor, can cause a major disruption of your normal routines. Chronic pain is constant pain you’ve experienced for at least three straight months. With a cervical bulging disc or slipped disc, the pain can be severe in some cases.
Chronic neck pain is fairly common in the U.S., as more than 30 percent of all American adults complain of it. One of the reasons for this high prevalence is the extensive mobility and flexibility — along with the minimal protection — of your cervical spine. This makes it susceptible to injury.
What’s the Difference Between a Slipped Disc and a Bulging Disc?
A slipped disc and a bulging disc are similar in many ways, but each is a distinct medical condition. They have different causes, appear unique from one another in imaging tests and need different treatments. For example:
- A bulging disc is created when the outer layer of a disc weakens. At some point, that layer wears away, and the gel-like contents of the disc erupt all around it — if not completely, then at least a half or a quarter of the disc fails. This leads to compressed root nerves because the nerves exit the spinal cord where the discs are located, in between the vertebrae.
- A slipped disc is the same thing as a herniated disc. It’s a weakened or brittle disc that cracks, releasing its inner gel substance. Unlike a bulging disc, though, a slipped disc usually leaks in only one spot. But the pressure the disc is under may propel its contents into a nerve root, resulting in the same type of pain in your neck.
Both medical conditions involve damaged discs. Both cause similar symptoms, and both can lead to similar disabilities. Your symptoms from a bulging disc or slipped disc depend on where the interior of the intervertebral discs leak, either into your spinal column, to either side of the bone or toward the back of your vertebra.
Do I Have Symptoms of a Bulging or Slipped Cervical Disc?
Neck pain is the most common symptom, since the ruptured disc material often touches or compresses a sensitive spinal nerve. Some of the other common symptoms that point to a cervical bulging or slipped disc include:
- A shooting pain in your arms
- Burning pain in your shoulders and arms
- Pain with movement
- A reduced range of motion
- Possible weakness and numbness of your arm or hand
There are multiple possible causes of cervical bulging or slipped disc. Some of these possible causes of these medical conditions include:
- With age, your cervical spinal discs naturally deteriorate, losing strength and resiliency
- Excessive force or sudden, unexpected pressure to your cervical spine in the event of a neck injury
- Obesity or being overweight, which puts added pressure on your intervertebral discs
- A sedentary lifestyle, including a lack of regular exercise, leading to poor muscle tone
- Tobacco use, which limits your blood flow, making you heal more slowly
- Poor body posture, especially when lifting or twisting repeatedly
The spinal canal is narrow and has limited space for the spinal nerve. If your disc leaks into the spinal canal, it causes pain and other symptoms. In extreme cases, a slipped disc is visible on the back of your neck. The gel-like center can also release chemical irritants which further inflame the nerve.
What Should I Do for Chronic Neck Pain?
If you experience neck pain that starts to affect your daily activities, you need to see a spinal doctor or neurosurgeon accomplished in spinal medicine. At NU-Spine, The Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Institute, spine center practice in Edison, NJ, neurosurgeon Dr. Branko Skovrlj, is a leading expert on neck ailments and cervical spine issues, including:
- Slipped discs
- Bulging discs
- Herniated discs
- Degenerative disc disease
- Pinched nerves
- Facet syndrome
At the state-of-the-art facility, your spinal surgeon uses advanced diagnostics and treatment procedures, including minimally invasive back surgery. Combining the latest medical technology with the most up-to-date treatment techniques get you back to your normal activities faster.
What Can I Do about a Cervical Slipped Disc or Bulging Disc?
Before treatment, your spinal doctor in northern New Jersey carries out diagnostic tests to determine an exact diagnosis. Before you can receive the correct treatment, your doctor needs to know if you have a cervical slipped disc, a cervical bulging disc or something else. Your doctor reviews your medical history and performs a physical exam to determine the source of your pain. Tests may include an MRI, X-ray, CT scan, electromyography or nerve conduction study.
The majority of slipped or bulging disc cases don’t require surgery. Based on your diagnosis, Dr. Skovrlj may recommend some non-surgical solutions to try first. If they relieve your symptoms, you don’t need to go any further with your treatment. These remedies include:
- Targeted massage or chiropractic care
- Physical therapy, including personalized home exercises
- Medications, including oral painkillers and steroid injections
- Other pain management techniques
What if These Non-Invasive Treatments Don’t Work?
Non-invasive treatments don’t address the underlying cause of your pain; they only mask the symptoms. And if they don’t deliver enough pain relief, you need to take your treatment consideration to the next level. Effective, minimally invasive surgical treatments include:
- Endoscopic posterior cervical foraminotomy/discectomy
- Artificial disc replacement
- Minimally invasive micro-endoscopic discectomy
- Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF)
Don’t suffer neck pain needlessly. If you’re in New Jersey or New York City, contact the spinal specialists at NU-Spine for a comprehensive diagnosis and effective treatment. Dr. Skovrlj uses a multi-disciplinary approach to spinal treatment, which helps him achieve effective results faster. Contact NU-Spine today for an evaluation.Page Updated on Jul 9, 2021 by Dr. Branko Skovrlj (Neurosurgeon / Spine surgeon) of NU-Spine: The Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Institute in New Jersey