Daily Tips and Advice

Bulging Disc or trapped nerve

Stuart Fossella - Thursday, November 22, 2012 | Comments (0)
Posted 7 years ago
image of spinal vertebrae displaying disc bulge

Bulging Disc or Trapped Nerve

Between the spinal bones or vertebrae lay jelly like discs that act as shock absorbers and structures that act as spacers. These discs are gel like in make up and held together by an outer casing. If the outer casing becomes damaged or ‘fails’, the disc may end up ‘bulging’ rather than slipping.

Check out the following link for a 3D image of the discs sitting between the vertebrae and the nerves exiting the joints Healthline

If a disc bulge is large enough it may press on, and trap the nerve that lies closely to the disc, causing pain down the arm.

Causes of a disc bulge include:

  • General wear and tear from repetitive actions such as bending, twisting and lifting.
  • Sudden movements.
  • Or because of no apparent cause (‘creeps up’ on a sufferer).

Clinical Signs

  • Usually associated with severe one sided pain at the neck or arm and hand which may be made worse with neck movements or coughing, sneezing and straining.
  • If a nerve is trapped or irritated then it may cause someone to feel pain or ‘pins and needles’, down the arm to the hand (also known as referred pain).
  • A loss of skin sensation or loss of muscular strength may be noticed in the arm or hand.
  • If a bulge is large enough, symptoms may be felt in both arms.


  • Initial management of pain with adequate pain relief.
  • Ice treatment or the warmth of a hot pack.
  • TENS/other electrotherapy.
  • Neck traction.
  • Activity modification, postural advice, ergonomic assessment/modification.
  • A rehabilitation programme and Graded return to activity.


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