Skip to Content
A bulging spinal disc occurs when the disc's soft, jellylike center
(nucleus) is squeezed into cracks in the disc's outer covering, weakening and
stretching that covering. As a disc bulges out from between the neighboring
bones (vertebrae), it can press on nerves that travel to the legs or arms and
can cause numbness, weakness, or pain.
Normally, spinal discs absorb shock and provide flexibility within
the spine. With age, spinal discs break down. They become drier, less flexible,
and more easily damaged. Injury and prolonged overuse or misuse can speed the
formation of tiny tears in a disc's capsule. People who smoke cigarettes are at
increased risk of disc deterioration.
In most cases, symptoms of a bulging disc can be managed with
nonsurgical treatment and will go away over time. In a few cases, surgery is
Current as of:
May 22, 2015
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
© Copyright 2016 Rush-Copley Medical Center • 2000 Ogden Avenue; Aurora, IL 60504
Main: 630-978-6200 • Physician Referral & Information: 630-978-6700 or 866-4COPLEY (866-426-7539)