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What are the Most Common Treatments for Bulging Discs?

Bulging discs can cause significant discomfort, but fear not—effective treatments abound. Physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle modifications lead the charge in managing symptoms. In more severe cases, epidural injections or surgery may be recommended. Each approach aims to reduce pain and improve mobility. Wondering which treatment might be right for you? Let's explore your options together.
Jeri Sullivan
Jeri Sullivan

A bulging disc is caused when the fluid-filled disc between the spine's vertebrae shifts out of place. The most common treatments are rest, medication, chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, and steroid injections. For more serious conditions, surgery may be required. A medical professional will diagnose the condition after an examination or during scans of the body, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Unlike a herniated disc, which is typically painful because the disc is touching a nerve, a bulging disc is most often not painful. The disc should be treated, however, since further bulging may cause a spinal misalignment and become painful. For slight issues, the healthcare professional will prescribe rest to relieve any pressure placed on the area. He or she may also restrict certain strenuous activities or sports where twists and sudden movements may exacerbate the problem.

Steroid injections will sometimes help with a bulging disk.
Steroid injections will sometimes help with a bulging disk.

Medication is often prescribed as treatment for bulging discs. Anti-inflammatory or general pain relievers may help alleviate pain or twinges from sudden movements. If over-the-counter medications do not eliminate the issue, muscle relaxers or prescription pain medications may be recommended.

Steroid injections are also sometimes used, especially if there is only one bulging disc. The steroid medication is injected near the disc site to provide localized pain relief. The injection may also be delivered directly into the spinal canal, similar to an epidural. These types of injections are normally used when the compression of the nerve is causing numbness in the arms or legs.

Chiropractic care is a common non-medical treatment for back problems such as bulging disks.
Chiropractic care is a common non-medical treatment for back problems such as bulging disks.

Non-medical treatments for bulging discs include chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy. Once the misalignment is identified, a chiropractor can manipulate the patient's spine to get the vertebrae into the appropriate place. Physical therapy also helps minimize any issues with stiffness or movement restrictions.

Disectomy is a surgical procedure that may be performed if other non-surgical treatments are ineffective. This involves removing a small bit of the vertebrae called lamina to relieve the pressure on the spinal nerve and allow the disc to return to its normal position.

When the fluid filled disk in between vertebrae shifts out of place, it is known as a bulging disk.
When the fluid filled disk in between vertebrae shifts out of place, it is known as a bulging disk.

A foraminotomy is another one of the surgical treatments for bulging discs intended to relieve pressure on the nerve. The procedure requires the surgeon to remove any fragments and shave off bits of the area around where the nerve moves into the spinal canal. By enlarging this area, there is less chance for bulging discs to apply pressure to the nerve and cause pain.

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Discussion Comments

BoniJ

@lovealot - I have never had surgery for a bulging disc, but my mother had this surgery. She tried everything, physical therapy, medication, chiropractic treatment, but still had frequent back pain.

Finally, her doctor suggested that she have a disectomy. They cut away part of the vertebrae so the nerve wouldn't be irritated. After several months of rest and physical therapy, she felt fine and hasn't had a bulging disc since.

lovealot

Bulging disc pain is a real challenge to deal with. A friend of mine has one of these bulging disc episodes a couple times a year. She usually has to go to bed for a few days, take muscle relaxants and pain medication.

After a few days of bed rest, she goes to the chiropractor to try to get the disc back in place so it's away from the nerve.

She's thinking about getting some kind of surgery to try to correct the problem. Has anyone had one of those surgeries that helps long-term with the disc problem?

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    • Steroid injections will sometimes help with a bulging disk.
      By: surda19
      Steroid injections will sometimes help with a bulging disk.
    • Chiropractic care is a common non-medical treatment for back problems such as bulging disks.
      By: Lisa F. Young
      Chiropractic care is a common non-medical treatment for back problems such as bulging disks.
    • When the fluid filled disk in between vertebrae shifts out of place, it is known as a bulging disk.
      By: CLIPAREA.com
      When the fluid filled disk in between vertebrae shifts out of place, it is known as a bulging disk.
    • A man with lower back pain from a bulging disk.
      By: Robert Kneschke
      A man with lower back pain from a bulging disk.
    • A healthy spine and a spine with a bulging disc.
      By: Alila
      A healthy spine and a spine with a bulging disc.