Although many cases of spinal abnormalities are a result of the aging process and natural wear and tear, there are steps you can take for bulging disc prevention that may be the difference between a strong spine and a weak spine. Remember, the spine is not just a column of bones — it is a complicated structure of small muscles, joints, connective tissue, nerves, vertebrae, and intervertebral discs, which means that you have to maintain its health, just as you would take care of any other part of your body.
What is a Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc is an intervertebral disc that has pushed beyond its normal boundaries and protruded into the spinal canal. These discs are made of fibrocartilage and collagen for maximum elasticity, but over time their strength and durability will decrease because of water loss. When this happens, the weight of the body and the stress of spinal movements can put enough pressure on the disc that it bulges. The bulge in and of itself is not painful, though if the protruding disc comes into contact with spinal nerves, pain signals can be sent to whichever part of the body those nerves innervate.
Lifestyle Changes for Bulging Disc Prevention
There are a variety of lifestyle changes that may aid in bulging disc prevention, although it is important to remember that no program of diet or exercise should ever be attempted without the supervision of a doctor.
- Exercise – staying active will strengthen the muscles of your back and keep you flexible, which means that your vertebrae and intervertebral discs will have help in supporting your body weight and all of your body’s movements.
- Manage your weight – a healthy diet, combined with exercise, means that your spine has less of a burden to support. Although it can be tempting to become sedentary as we get older, weight gain only causes your spine to work harder. Choose foods high in fiber, low in saturated fat, and high in omega fatty acids, which can help keep your intervertebral discs healthy and lubricated.
- Quit smoking – as you know, the toxins of cigarettes have extremely detrimental effects on your entire body; what you may not know is that nicotine prevents the intervertebral discs in your spine from absorbing the nutrients they need to maintain their structural integrity.
Treatments for Bulging Disc
If you develop a bulging disc despite prevention efforts, you’ll be happy to know that most cases heal themselves with a regimen of conservative treatment. Begin with over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy, and hot/cold therapy. If you need more to manage your symptoms, try prescription medication or steroid injections. If your bulging disc pain persists despite weeks or months of these therapies, you may begin to consider surgery. If this is the case, contact Laser Spine Institute for more information about our minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures that have helped tens of thousands of people rediscover lives without back pain.