A bulging disc occurs when one of the gel-filled pads situated between two vertebrae shifts out of its normal position in the spinal column. These shock-absorbing discs separate and cushion the vertebrae while allowing enough room for spinal nerve roots to exit the spinal canal and travel to the arms and legs. An out-of-place disc can potentially obstruct and pressure a nerve root, leading to pain, numbness, tingling sensations and muscle weakness.
In some cases, a bulging disc will resolve on its own with time. Or, it may be repaired, if necessary. Because the repair of a damaged disc can sometimes be accomplished without surgery, most physicians advise their patients to try conservative treatment before considering a surgical procedure.
Conservative treatment for a bulging disc
Here are some ways to promote the healing of a bulging disc:
- As soon as pain develops, take a brief break from activities that tax the spine, such as bending and lifting, in order to avoid worsening the damage and aggravating the discomfort.
- Perform physician-approved stretching and strengthening exercises to build support for the spine, which can shift some of the weight burden away from a damaged disc and onto the surrounding muscles.
- Alternately apply hot and cold packs as often as needed for pain relief.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as directed.
Surgical repair of a bulging disc
For excessive pain or incontinence (a rare but serious complication of spinal nerve compression), it is important to seek prompt medical attention. If appropriate, a spine specialist may recommend surgical treatment for a bulging disc, such as a laminectomy or discectomy. Before proceeding with a surgical procedure, it’s important to consider the possible risks, complications and outcomes. Many people prefer to go with the least invasive option possible.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a bulging disc and would like to explore your surgical treatment options, contact USA Spine Care. Our team can provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.