For most people, a typical and bothersome health condition that can occur and cause complications for old and young people is back pain. Typically, back pain is a common condition because it could be due to various variables, and the severity of this pain could differ from one individual to the other. Among the many possible causes of back pain, one of the most common causes is a bulging disc.
A bulging disc can lead to several problems, both physically and emotionally. Not only will you endure troublesome pain when this health problem comes up, but you will also have the letdown of having a painful back. That means you will have to put some of your daily activities and lifestyle on hold until you regain your full health.
While a bulging disc could sound like a severe health condition, it is common among many people, and fortunately, it is treatable. When it comes to treatment, there are several remedies to manage this health condition. If you think you have a bulging disc, our doctors at LAMIS Institute are here for you.
Our experienced Los Angeles doctors will examine your back using modern technology and formulate a treatment plan to help manage the condition with time for the healthy and comfortable life you truly deserve.
A Bulging Disc at a Glance
To better understand the treatment options available, it would be best to know what a bulging disc is first. The spine is typically the long bone in the back part of your body that runs from the neck to your buttocks, comprising several interlocking vertebrae joined by ligaments.
In addition to supporting the movement of your body and keeping it erect, the primary purpose of the spine and these numerous vertebrae is to protect and house the delicate and nervous spinal cord. As you walk or perform physical activities, your vertebrae will inevitably rub against each other.
However, since you have discs between these vertebrae, you will not experience any pressure or pain as these vertebrae rub against each other. Typically, the spinal discs act as a cushion or shock absorber, preventing possible damage or harm to the bone and the surrounding spinal tissues when moving or performing any physical activity.
The spinal disc is typically a flexible donut-like cushion comprising an inner jelly-like substance known as nucleus pulposus and an outer covering known as annulus fibrosus.
As the name suggests, a bulging disc is a condition that occurs when your spinal disc bulges or expands, and this happens when the nucleus pulposus dislocates and pushes the annulus fibrous outwards. When this happens, the affected spinal disc will stick out into your spinal canal, causing pressure on the surrounding nerves.
Although this health condition could develop due to age when the jelly-like substance reduces, it could also be due to several other reasons or variables such as:
- A traumatic car crash or sports accident
- Degenerative disc disease
- Poor posture
Symptoms of a Bulging Disc
There are several triggers for uncomfortable back pain, making it difficult to diagnose this health condition. Furthermore, each person could experience different symptoms if they have a bulging disc. That can happen if the condition has not progressed to a severe herniation level or state.
Having a herniated spinal disc means its soft inner layer has ruptured through a tear or crack in the outer layer, allowing the gel-like substance into the nervous spinal canal. When that happens, you will experience irritation that causes some shooting pain in the affected region of your back.
To that end, knowing which possible symptoms to expect if you have this spinal health condition is very important because it can worsen with time when left unmanaged or untreated. Typically, the symptoms you are likely to experience if you have a bulging disc depend on the affected location in your spine and the severity of the condition.
In most patients, the symptoms of a bulging disc condition will be apparent in different regions of your spine, including:
Generally, symptoms of a bulging disc condition will be revealed in this part of the spine among most people. Some of these symptoms include:
If you have a bulging disc in the lumbar region or lower part of the spine, you could also experience these symptoms around your feet, buttocks, and thighs.
The symptoms of this health issue can also reveal in the cervical spine or neck area. If you have a bulging disc in this spine region, you could experience symptoms similar to those listed above in different parts of your body, including the arms, neck, head, and hands.
Also known as the dorsal spine, the thoracic spine is the middle region of your spine, comprising the mid-back and upper part of your body. Although this health condition rarely occurs around this region, it could occur especially after a traumatic car crash.
Some of the symptoms associated with a bulging disc around this region of the spine include:
- Muscle spasms
- Pain in your upper back
- Uncomfortable pain around your chest or stomach area
When you experience any of the above symptoms in either of these spine sections, you should speak with a qualified doctor without delay. Some of these symptoms will only reveal if the bulging disc has reached a severe state, meaning an immediate medical check-up is critical.
The sooner you contact a specialized doctor, the better the chances of managing the condition within the shortest time possible.
Bulging Disc Treatment Options
The treatment options available for a bulging disc will typically depend on the severity of the condition. Fortunately, a bulging disc is treatable through various non-surgical procedures if detected early before progressing to a severe or herniated state.
In most cases, the treatment options the doctor will recommend if he/she determines that you have a bulging disc include pain management techniques and lifestyle changes. Below are some of the common and effective treatment and lifestyle adjustments your doctor could recommend if you have a bulging disc condition:
In most patients with a bulging disc condition, the doctor will recommend physical therapy to help regain your lost mobility, if any, and strengthen your back muscles that support the spine. To that end, you could need the services of a physical therapist to prescribe or recommend exercises and positions that can help you alleviate the symptoms of the bulging disc condition over time.
Undoubtedly, exercises are an essential and helpful component of rehabilitation for most patients with back pain.
Some of the exercises your physical therapist could recommend to alleviate bulging disc symptoms include:
- Riding a stationary bicycle
The above exercises can help reduce pressure on the affected nerve to relieve the pain from a bulging disc. Stretches for the neck, legs, and back could also help ease the pain of a bulging disc at home.
If you are unsure what you can and cannot do while at home to ease the pain of a bulging disc, you should speak with a physical therapist or doctor because particular exercises could worsen the damage.
Practice Good Posture
Your pain doctor could also recommend changing your body positioning or postures and other associated behaviors, which could be the culprit of the bulging disc condition. The doctor will consider your posture, sleeping, and sitting habits before recommending the necessary changes that you should make to ease the symptoms of a bulging disc.
Poor posture could cause a bulging disc because it places pressure and stress on your spinal discs and lower back, especially if your daily activities require you to sit for many hours. Therefore, practicing excellent postures when sitting and standing is vital to keep the spine aligned and distribute your weight evenly.
If any of these habits is the trigger factor for the bulging disc, changing them is the only solution to stop this condition from growing severe every day.
Excess weight can place more pressure and stress on your vertebrae and spine. If the bulging disc condition is due to being overweight, your doctor could recommend weight reduction to treat the problem. Your doctor can also design a personalized exercise and weight-reduction plan to help alleviate the strain and pressure on your back.
If the pain caused by the bulging disc is not severe, your doctor could recommend some anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce inflammation and pain. Although these Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can help reduce pain and swelling, it is not wise to use them for more than ten days without talking to a doctor because they can increase your risk of bleeding and heart problems.
Other medications your doctor could recommend to ease the bulging disc symptoms include:
- Muscle relaxers – Your doctor could prescribe medications like Flexeril and Skelaxin if you currently have muscle spasms. Some side effects you should anticipate once you take these medications include sedation and dizziness.
- Opioids – Due to the possible side effects of these drugs and possible addiction, your doctor could be reluctant to prescribe them for a bulging disc condition. However, if other drugs cannot ease your pain, the doctor could recommend opioids like codeine for short-term use.
- Neuropathic drugs – Typically, neuropathic drugs will affect your nerve impulses to alleviate the pain you are experiencing due to this health condition. Some of these medications include pregabalin, gabapentin, duloxetine, or venlafaxine.
- Cortisone injections – When your pain does not improve with these oral medications, the doctor will recommend cortisone injections into the affected region. Spinal imaging or X-ray could be necessary for precise injection of the affected area.
Since smoking or using tobacco products could slow the healing of a damaged disc and increase the disc degeneration rate, it could be high time for you to quit smoking. Although tobacco products are highly addictive, it is possible to quit smoking if you follow your doctor’s advice.
Other Alternative Treatment Options for a Bulging Disc That You Can Consider
Below are other alternative and complementary remedies that you can consider to ease or reduce the symptoms of a bulging disc:
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment that involves the insertion of sharp needles in specific points of your body to relieve discomfort or symptoms associated with most health conditions, including a bulging disc.
Although it is practiced everywhere around the globe, reiki is typically a Japanese energy healing technique that promotes relaxation through gentle and non-invasive touch on various parts of your body.
Like acupuncture, moxibustion is also an ancient holistic Chinese treatment method. Moxibustion treatment typically involves burning dried mugwort “moxa” near or on different therapy points or acupuncture points to stimulate the flow of energy “qi” in your body.
According to ancient Chinese medical practitioners, symptoms of a bulging disc condition like pain can reduce or stop when your qi energy is balanced.
Unfortunately, if these non-surgical treatment options do not relieve your pain after about twelve weeks, or perhaps the pain is severe, surgery could be the only option to treat the bulging disc condition. Ensure you talk to your doctor about this option if:
- You have trouble walking or standing due to leg numbness or weakness
- Your symptoms are growing worse every day
- You cannot control your bladder or bowels
Surgery treatment for a bulging disc typically involves fusing two vertebrae to reduce movement between the bones. The recovery period for this surgery could take about three to six months because these bones need time to fuse to offer adequate support to your spine.
Find a Neurointerventional Surgeon Near Me
At LAMIS Institute, we understand how challenging life can be if you have throbbing and bothersome back pain. Although sometimes back pain could go away without seeking medical help, it is advisable to contact a doctor to determine the root cause of this health issue.
If you believe these symptoms are due to a bulging disc, our skilled and reputable doctors can assist you before the condition worsens to the herniation state. We invite you to call us at 310-734-6088 to discuss your health condition with our doctors wherever you are in the city of Los Angeles.