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Treatment for a bulging disc — a guide to best practices

Although no single treatment plan is right for every patient, there are some bulging disc treatment guidelines that are often effective in relieving symptoms. While a bulging disc is not necessarily painful, nerve compression can result if displaced disc material causes narrowing of any of the nerve passageways. If symptoms do occur, doctors will typically build a treatment plan around relieving pain, restoring range of motion and improving overall health.

Since every person’s situation is unique, a doctor should make an individualized plan based on your needs. These factors may include the location and severity of the bulging disc, as well as any previously attempted treatment. However, despite the variables, several evidence-based best practices are taken into consideration for many bulging disc treatment plans. Learning more about some of these specific methods can offer you the best chance of getting back to the people and activities you’ve been missing out on if a bulging disc is disrupting your life.

Explore conservative treatment options first

Upon diagnosing a bulging disc as the source of neck pain, back pain or radiating pain in the extremities, doctors will usually begin with a course of conservative treatments. Since a bulging disc can improve with time, initial treatment is generally aimed at pain management while the progress of the condition is monitored. Factors like weight, nutritional habits and smoking can also contribute to disc degeneration, so most treatment plans may try to address these factors as well.

Commonly prescribed conservative treatments include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Lifestyle changes, including losing weight and quitting smoking

Guidelines for surgery

For many patients, these options are enough to help control bulging disc symptoms. Most doctors view surgery to treat a bulging disc as a last resort because it is such an invasive process, requiring a large muscle-tearing incision, overnight hospitalization and a long recovery period. However, if conservative treatments are exhausted after weeks and months without an improvement in symptoms, traditional open back surgery may become an option.

If you are considering surgery but have anxiety about the risks and difficulties of traditional open spine procedures, reach out to USA Spine Care. Our minimally invasive spine surgery leads to a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication compared to traditional open spine procedures.

Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for an outpatient, minimally invasive procedure at USA Spine Care.

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