When one of the discs in the spine protrudes out of its usual position, it is known as a bulging disc. This condition is fairly common, and while it can cause pain if the disc compresses a nerve root or the spinal cord, it can also cause no symptoms at all.
Many times, the body is able to fix the bulging disc on its own. It’s quite common for patients to experience symptoms for several days, only for them to disappear completely without extensive treatment. As a result, most physicians recommend a wait-and-see approach for the first few weeks of treatment.
Initial treatments for a bulging disc
Conservative therapies, such as pain medications, stretching, exercise and physical therapy can help patients manage their discomfort during the initial treatment period as they wait to see if their condition improves. Common options of conservative treatment include:
- Anti-inflammatory medications (both prescription and over-the-counter)
- Hot or cold compresses
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
- Physical therapy sessions
- Activity modification (avoiding activities that make the pain worse)
- Epidural steroid injections
Many patients also turn to complementary therapies during this time as well. Yoga, therapeutic massage and acupuncture are all popular options. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as limiting alcohol and tobacco consumption and regularly getting low-impact cardiovascular exercise can help individuals with a bulging disc improve their overall health and quality of life.
If surgical intervention is required
In the event that a disc does move back into its normal position after a period of several months, a physician may recommend addressing the displaced disc with surgery. During a traditional spinal fusion, a surgeon can remove the disc and replace it with a bone graft or other implant, then permanently fuse the vertebrae together. However, open back surgery often involves a long hospital stay and extensive recovery period.
Another option for surgical bulging disc treatment is minimally invasive surgery, such as the procedures performed at USA Spine Care. Our outpatient procedures are performed using muscle-sparing techniques, and many patients are back to walking the same day as their procedure. Soft tissue is pushed aside rather than cut, which means that USA Spine Care’s procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice for bulging disc surgery. To find out if you are a good candidate for our outpatient procedures, contact us today.