A bulging disc can occur anywhere on the spine, with a bulging disc in neck often being characterised by tingling or pain in the arms, chest, shoulders and hands. The vertebrae of the neck, or cervical vertebrae, are numbered as C1 (the vertebrae attached to the skull) down to C7, at the collar bone. Bulging disc in neck is known by its medical name 'cervical disc prolapse'. The most usual cause of this condition is age, with those in the 30-50 age range being the most affected, the condition being rare outside of this bracket.
Of all spinal health issues, one of the most common is that of bulging or prolapsed discs. The individual vertebrae of the spine are separated by gel-filled pads which are known as discs. These allow for full articulation of the spine whilst preventing the vertebrae from grinding together.
At some point in their lives, most people suffer a bulging disc, and in many cases, they may not even be aware of it. Far from being highly painful and dangerous as generally thought, many people suffer only mild discomfort, and the bulging disc can be easily treated with therapy. In some cases, however, pressure on nerve endings may cause debilitating pain.
Age-related deterioration is one cause, with injuries such as car accidents also causing this condition, as well as obesity and poor posture being aggravating factors.
Treatment for bulging disc in neck generally involves rest in the first instance, with neck braces sometimes being used in conjunction with physiotherapy. Changes to posture are effective in treating the problem. Doctors may also prescribe painkillers, pain-relieving injections or anti-inflammatory medication.
One of the most effective treatments for this condition is traction. Under professional guidance, the neck is gently stretched to reduce pressure on nerve endings, and to help the disc return to it's normal shape and position.
Prolapsed disc and herniated disc are often confused terms. A herniated disc occurs when the material of the disc is damaged, causing the nucleus of the disc to protrude beyond the outer material, often causing pain as it causes pressure on local nerve endings. This is often a result of a prolapsed disc, and with treatment minor herniations may heal in a matter of weeks. More severe herniations may not heal, and require surgical intervention.
Cases of herniated or slipped discs and Brown-Sequard Syndrome are extremely rare. Brown-Sequard syndrome is characterised by a cut or lesion in the spinal cord causing a loss of motor function, as well as loss of sensation and paralysis on the same side of the body as the spinal injury. This is usually as a result of some form of bodily trauma causing the spinal cord to be damaged.
In the case of herniated discs, it is caused by the damaged disc causing pressure on the spinal cord. However, there have only been 32 reported cases of disc herniation causing this condition in English medical literature, and in most cases, the symptoms of Brown-Sequard syndrome been alleviated following surgery.
Improvements in magnetic resonance image (MRI) scanning have reduced incidence of prolapsed and herniated cervical discs causing spinal cord damage. Cases where nerve problems have quickly been referred to a neurologist for MRI scanning have helped early diagnosis and treatment before serious injury occured.