The aging process robs the spinal disks of flexibility, and the surrounding ligaments also become brittle, which can lead to herniated disks. Impacts or stresses to the neck that do not cause damage earlier in life may cause the disks to tear later on. The pressure of the bulge on nearby nerves is often painful, states Medtronic.
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.
Signs of a disk bulge in the neck include severe neck pain, shoulder pain, and a tingling feeling or numbness in the hand or arm. Pain that radiates from the neck down the arm is another sign of a disk problem. 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.