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Do you have to have surgery if you have a bulging disc?

A bulging disc is an extremely common spinal condition. In fact, by some estimates more than half of Americans over the age of 50 have some degree of disc deterioration, although many are unaware of it. That’s because a bulging disc only triggers symptoms if it deforms enough for the outer wall to pinch a nearby nerve root. When this happens, it can cause pain at the site of the compression as well as muscle weakness, tingling, burning sensations and numbness all along the route of the affected nerve. Since bulging discs worsen slowly over time, initial symptoms are usually mild and intermittent, which is why patients seldom seek treatment in the early stages of this condition.

When symptoms of a bulging disc become severe enough to warrant a trip to the doctor, the first step in developing an effective treatment strategy is to determine exactly where the nerve compression is taking place. This will likely require one or more imaging tests, such as an X-ray, CT scan or MRI. Once a precise diagnosis has been made, a combination of conservative strategies is usually recommended to manage a patient’s symptoms, including lifestyle modifications such as weight loss and quitting smoking, physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), stretching, exercises and hot and cold compresses. Additional pain-management strategies may include alternative therapies such as chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and deep-tissue massage.

If these are unsuccessful in effectively managing symptoms, bulging disc surgery may be necessary to provide long-term pain relief. At USA Spine Care, we offer a number of outpatient surgeries that are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back procedures.^ Using muscle-sparing techniques and an incision of less than 1-inch, our surgeons can perform a:

  • Discectomy — in which a portion of the disc is removed to alleviate nerve compression
  • Laminotomy or foraminotomy — to open space in the central spinal canal or around the opening through which the nerve exits the spinal column
  • Stabilization — where the entire disc is removed and the adjacent vertebrae are fused to form a single bone

If you have been diagnosed with a bulging disc and are still experiencing chronic pain in your neck or back despite months of conservative treatment options, you may be a candidate for surgery at USA Spine Care. Contact us today to learn how you can obtain a free MRI review* as the first step in the evaluative process.

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