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What causes a bulging disk in the neck?

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Quick Answer

A bulging disk, usually called a herniated disk, occurs when part of the nucleus, the soft center of the disk, pushes through a crack in the exterior called the annulus, according to the Mayo Clinic. A person will experience pain if the bulging part of the disk pushes down on a nerve.

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What causes a bulging disk in the neck?
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Full Answer

If a herniated disk pushes on a nerve, symptoms may include back, leg or arm pain, weakness in the muscles and tingling or numbness. Symptoms vary depending on the location of the herniation. A herniated disk in the neck typically causes pain in the shoulders or arms, and a disk in the lower back may cause pain in the thigh, calf or buttocks muscles.

A bulging disk occurs when the outer covering of these tissues between the vertebrae develops a tear. Part of the disk protrudes through the covering, causing the bulge. This bulge pushes against the spinal cord itself, leading to myelopathy, or against nearby spinal nerves, leading to radiculopathy. Disks and coverings that lose fluidity and elasticity as time goes by become increasingly vulnerable to tears, according to Medtronic.

Depending on the severity, pain ranges from a more general ache to a precise, sharp burning pain that is easy to isolate. Feeling pain in the neck and arms simultaneously is a strong sign that a neck problem has irritated the nerve roots, as stated by Medtronic.

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