The discs of the spine are made up of a tough outer wall of fibrous cartilage and an inner core of gel-like material. These structures act like shock absorbers for the vertebrae above and below them and can weaken over time. A degenerative disc will often bulge outward as it compresses. If the outer wall begins to press against a nearby nerve root, it can trigger a number of symptoms, both at the site of the compression as well as along the length of the affected nerve.
The pain associated with a bulging disc can range from mild to debilitating. If you’re experiencing discomfort performing simple physical activities such as a bending, sitting or twisting, it’s understandable why you would want to avoid doing anything that might exasperate your symptoms. While high-impact and heavy-lifting exercises should be avoided if you’ve been diagnosed with this condition, severely curtailing physical activity can actually do more harm than good. That’s because prolonged bed rest or inactivity can weaken muscles and cause tendons and ligaments to stiffen. Strong muscles and flexibility help stabilize the spine, keeping the vertebrae in proper alignment and taking some of the pressure off a bulging disc, allowing it to decompress and reduce or eliminate pressure on the compromised nerve root.
Although maintaining a certain level of physical activity is important for patients diagnosed with a bulging disc, it’s equally important to consult with a doctor or physical therapist before engaging in any exercise routine, no matter how gentle it may seem. Some commonly recommended activities to help increase muscle strength and reduce pain include:
- Select Pilates and yoga poses
- Hydrotherapy sessions
- Swiss ball stretches for spinal traction
- Improving your posture
- Low-impact cardiovascular exercises such as elliptical machine and stationary bike workouts
Many patients find significant relief from symptoms of a bulging disc though one or more conservative or alternative treatment strategies such as physical therapy, hot and cold compresses, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and chiropractic manipulation.
If you’re still experiencing neck or back pain due to a bulging disc even after months of conservative treatments, you may be a candidate for minimally invasive surgery offered at USA Spine Care. Our board-certified surgeons+ have performed more than 100,000 outpatient procedures that have patients up and walking within a few hours of surgery. Contact a member of our team today to learn how you can obtain a free MRI review* to being the evaluative process.