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What to expect when you see a neurologist for a bulging disc

If you suspect you have a bulging disc in your neck or back, the first step is to see your primary care physician, who will begin the diagnostic process by discussing your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor will also physically examine your spine and conduct a series of in-office tests to evaluate your reflexes, range of motion and gait.

Although your initial visit will provide many clues as to the causes of your symptoms, a final, definitive diagnosis of a bulging disc cannot be made in a single office visit. It requires more comprehensive testing to determine the condition of your spine and the precise location of the injury. Since the pain and discomfort associated with a bulging disc is the result of a nerve root becoming compressed when the disc’s outer wall begins to push against it, it’s not uncommon for patients to be referred to a neurologist for further evaluation. This type of doctor specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders associated primarily with the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles.

If you’re referred to a neurologist for a possible bulging disc, the doctor will often conduct an EMG or electromyogram to evaluate the communication between the affected nerve and the muscle it works. This is done by inserting a needle-like electrode into the skin to record electrical activity. Other tests a neurologist might order include:

  • An X-ray — to image the vertebrae in your neck or back
  • A CT scan — to acquire a cross-sectional view of the spine
  • An MRI — to view soft tissue such as cartilage, tendons, ligaments and organs in detail
  • A myelogram — which involves injecting contrasting material into the space around the spinal cord and nerve roots for a clearer view of the site

Once the exact location of your bulging disc is determined, a neurologist will recommend treatment options to manage your symptoms. Conservative strategies are usually tried first and may include physical therapy, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, hot and cold compresses, stretching and exercise routines and lifestyle changes such as losing weight. In many cases, these approaches are effective in reducing or eliminating chronic pain caused by a bulging disc. Sometimes, however, surgery may be required to provide lasting pain relief.

At USA Spine Care, we are the leader in minimally invasive surgeries that are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back procedures. As part of the screening process, we offer a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient surgeries. Contact USA Spine Care today to learn how to obtain yours.

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