Bulging Disc Treatment Begins with Understanding the ConditionBulging discs and other intervertebral disc problems are some of the most commoncauses of back and neck pain. Suffering from the symptoms of a bulging disc can be atrying experience, since bulging discs can be exceptionally painful and typically take along time to heal. Thankfully, there are dozens of fairly easy bulging disc treatmentoptions available to choose from which can ease symptoms while the natural healingprocess of resorption takes place. But, since every bulging disc case is different,patients may have to try a variety of treatments to find the perfect combination ofremedies for their unique medical situation.What is an Intervertebral Disc?Before exploring the various choices available for bulging disc treatment, patients are wise to learn moreabout what a bulging disc is and how this condition may be caused. A bulging disc is a weakness orabnormality in the spinal column. The spinal column is comprised of a long stack of small, individualbones called vertebrae. Each vertebra is separated from the others by an intervertebral disc on the topand bottom. This vertebra-disc-vertebra-disc construction gives the spine its incredible flexibility,strength, and ability to cushion the everyday movements of life.The outside of each disc is wrapped in multiple tough layers of connective tissue. This outer covering iscalled the annulus fibrosus. The inside of disc – called the nucleus pulposus – is soft and gives the disc itsspongy, gel-like properties.What is a Bulging Disc?Like any other area of the body, intervertebral discs are susceptible to injury and degeneration. Discs,however, are especially prone to damage because they are at the center of all the body’s movements.Virtually everything we do – walking, bending, twisting, reaching, etc. – involves the spine and its mainsupport system, the intervertebral discs. Over time, the discs may yield to these everyday pressures andthe tough outer covering of a disc can develop a weak spot. With the jelly-like nucleus pulposus pushingthe weak spot from the inside, part of the disc can bubble out beyond its normal position in the spinalcolumn. Before you know it, the disc has developed a bulge.What are the Symptoms of a Bulging Disc?The good news is, most bulging discs are not painful at all. Many adults have bulging discs and are noteven aware of it until they see their doctor for an unrelated issue, and an MRI or CT scan happens toshow evidence of disc bulges. However, since the spinal column contains the major nerve structures ofthe body – the spinal cord and its nerve roots – a bulging disc is in a prime location to possibly press onany of this nerve tissue. If nerve compression occurs, symptoms of pain, burning, stiffness, numbness,tingling, weakness, spasms, and/or cramping can often follow. Many times, these symptoms will travelalong the path of the affected nerve(s) to other areas of the body such as the shoulders, arms, andhands or pelvis, legs, and feet. Any of the aforementioned symptoms are usually alarming enough forpatients to search for bulging disc treatment right away.Bulging Disc Diagnosis
If you experience back or neck pain that lasts more than a few days, make an appointment with yourprimary care physician. When you see your doctor, he or she will begin the diagnostic process with amedical history, during which you will be asked about all of your symptoms and whether certainactivities makes your symptoms feel better or worse. Your doctor will then proceed to complete athorough physical exam. The physical exam will involve your doctor testing if various movements in yourbody cause you discomfort. Your doctor also will check your range of motion and the presence ofphysical limitations. After all of these tests, your doctor will be able to determine if you have a bulgingdisc. Sometimes, your doctor also will want to get MRI or CT scans of your spine to confirm the diagnosisand pinpoint the exact location of nerve compression.Bulging Disc Treatment OptionsOnce your doctor has confirmed your diagnosis, he or she will outline a variety of conservative (non-surgical) bulging disc treatment options. If these treatments don’t work as well as you had expected, youmay try a few alternative treatments, too. If conservative and alternative treatments fail to ease yoursymptoms – and your discomfort is severely affecting your ability to live a full, happy life – then surgerymay be the next step.Before trying any treatment for your bulging disc, it’s important to remember to consult your physicianevery step of the way. You want to ensure that the medications you’re about to take for your bulgingdisc won’t interact with your current prescriptions. Also, never begin an exercise, stretching, or weightloss program without checking with your doctor first, as you don’t want to accidentally worsen yourcondition.MedicationsMedications may be the first conservative treatment option that your physician recommends. A fewclasses of medications that could be suggested include: • Pain medication – These drugs may be obtained over-the-counter or through a prescription from your doctor. • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – Also may be over-the- counter or prescription strength. Examples include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. • Other drugs - Muscle relaxants, anti-depressants, corticosteroids, and opioids may be prescribed.Other Conservative TreatmentsConservative treatments are those that do not involve surgery. Some non-surgical treatments can becontinued at home, like medication, while others require the direct assistance of a physical therapist orphysician. The following is a list of the most common conservative treatments for a bulging disc: • Bed rest – A little rest can ease symptoms, but too much rest can cause muscles to become weaker, stiffer, and less able to support the spine. • Weight loss – If the doctor determines that excess weight is placing excess pressure on the spine and exacerbating your symptoms, then a weight loss plan may be recommended.
• Hot therapy and cold therapy – A heating pad applied to the source of pain can relax muscles and increase blood flow. Application of ice packs can reduce swelling and help numb pain. • Physical therapy – A physical therapist can prescribe exercises that you can do at home to strengthen your spine and increase flexibility in your neck and back. Stretching exercises can help reduce nerve compression. The physical therapist also can show you proper posture, bending, and lifting techniques to help you prevent re-injury. • Spinal injections – Your doctor can inject pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication into the area very close to your bulging disc, which can relieve pain for weeks or even months.Alternative TreatmentsIn addition to conservative treatments, some patients may consider alternative treatments to ease theirbulging disc symptoms. Many alternative treatments have not gained acceptance within the traditionalmedical community, but despite this, alternative treatments have earned quite a large following.Alternative bulging disc treatment options may include: • Chiropractic adjustments • Acupuncture • Acupressure • Massage therapy • Yoga • Tai Chai • Herbal supplementsSurgery for a Bulging DiscIt is estimated that, in about 10 percent of bulging disc cases, patients choose elective surgery to easesymptoms that are not responding to any other treatment option. There are multiple approaches tosurgical treatment of a bulging disc and/or other degenerative spine conditions, such as: • Laminectomy – removal of the lamina (a part of the vertebrae that creates the vertebral arch). Removal of this bone helps open up space in the spinal column and reduces pressure on nerves. • Foraminectomy – removal of bone and soft tissue to increase the spaces (foramina) through which nerve roots pass. • Corpectomy – removal of one or more vertebral bodies (the large parts of vertebrae that surround intervertebral discs). • Spinal fusion – to stabilize the spine after the removal of bone and other tissue, permanent immobilization of two or more vertebrae may be necessary. This is done through the use of metal plates, rods, and screws, and bone grafts. • Endoscopic – laser-assisted, minimally invasive procedures involving small incisions through which tubes, a camera, and instruments are inserted so that the removal of small portions of spinal anatomy are possible.
Before consenting to surgery, it is highly recommended that patients do extensive research, consider alltheir options, and get several opinions from medical professionals. After all, not only do patients wanttheir surgery to be successful, but they also want a surgery that has minimal risk and recovery time.