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. While it can cause pain if the disc compresses a nerve root or a 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 for 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 bulging discs improve their overall health and quality of life.
If Surgical Intervention is Required
In the event that a disc does not 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 an extensive recovery period.
Another option for surgical bulging disc treatment is minimally invasive surgery, such as the procedures performed at BEST Health System. Our outpatient procedures are performed using muscle-sparing techniques. Many patients are back to walking on the same day as the procedure. Soft tissue is pushed aside rather than cut which means that BEST Health System’s procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice for bulging disc surgery. At BEST, we employ board-certified surgeons, Dr. Girton and Dr. Abbott, for our minimally invasive procedures.
To find out if you are a good candidate for our outpatient procedures, contact us today.