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Bulging Disc in Back Symptoms

author image Norene Anderson
Norene Anderson has been a writer since 2003. She is also a registered nurse with expertise in a wide range of medical conditions and treatments. Anderson received her associate degree in nursing from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.

A bulging disc, also known as a herniated, ruptured or slipped disc, occurs when the disc, which acts as a cushion between each vertebrae in the spine, is compressed and puts pressure on the surrounding nerves. The symptoms associated with a bulging disc depend on the portion of the spinal column affected and the extent of the bulge. Treatment options for a bulging disc in the back range from conservative measures to injections and surgery.

Numbness and Tingling

Numbness and tingling are symptoms of a nerve ending that is compressed or injured. The numbness and tingling sensation travels the nerve pathway, such as down the arm to the hand from a neck injury and along the back of the leg from a low back injury. The location and severity of a bulging disc in the back determines where the symptoms will occur. If weakness or paralysis accompanies the symptoms of numbness and tingling, individuals should seek immediate medical attention, states the University of Maryland Medical Center.


Weakness in one leg is a symptom of a bulging disc in the lower back. Weakness in one arm is a symptom of a bulging disc in the neck that is affecting the trapezius muscles between the neck and shoulder. As the gel cushion of the disc deteriorates or is damaged, it tends to push to only one side. If both legs or both arms are affected with weakness, a doctor should be consulted immediately to evaluate for a serious problem, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.


Pain is a common sign or symptom of a herniated disc, according to The three types of pain associated with a bulging disc are sciatica, which is an aching, radiating pain that starts in the buttock and goes down the side or back of one leg; pain located in the lower back and one leg; and lower back or leg pain that increases with activities such as sitting or sneezing.

Pain control suggestions, explains, include the following: avoiding activities that aggravate the symptoms; applying cold packs at the initial sign of pain and inflammation and switching to heat after a few days for added comfort; using over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen, naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin for mild to moderate pain; and lying in bed for no more than one or two days.

Difficulty Walking

Narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back can lead to spinal stenosis and compression of the nerve root. Causes for spinal stenosis include disc bulging, disc degeneration and tumors, states New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Difficulty walking is one of the symptoms noted for nerve root compression in the lower back. Diagnostic testing to locate the specific disc and nerve involvement includes X-rays, a CT scan or an EMG, which is an electromyographic test.

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