A bulging disc is a relatively common condition that often results from spinal wear and tear. What happens is that one of the cushioning discs between vertebrae loses some of its shape and bulges beyond its normal boundaries in the spinal column (it may be helpful to envision a hamburger that is larger than its bun).
Due to the close proximity of many sensitive spinal nerves, a bulging disc can potentially cause painful nerve compression in the spine. In many cases, however, the damage will resolve on its own over the course of several weeks. In the meantime, any associated discomfort can usually be effectively managed with rest, hot and cold compresses, physical therapy, pain-relieving medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other conservative therapies. In most instances, the pain does not become a lasting disability.
Can bulging disc pain become disabling?
While this does not happen in all cases, a bulging disc can potentially produce intense pain that does not respond to nonsurgical treatment and seems to worsen rather than improve over time. Sometimes, the pain is severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform many necessary tasks, such as bathing, dressing, cooking, driving and working. As such, a bulging disc that causes spinal nerve compression can create functional limitations that may make it impossible to maintain gainful employment.
A bulging disc may qualify as a disability if it compromises the spinal cord or a nerve root such that it:
- Produces severe pain, reduces spinal range of motion or causes leg muscle weakness that limits mobility
- Causes sensory or reflex loss
- Limits leg motion as measured by a positive straight-leg raising test (SLR test)
Where to turn for bulging disc treatment
If bulging disc pain is preventing you from working or reducing your quality of life, contact USA Spine Care. We can provide a free MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.