Back or neck pain from a bulging disc can range from a minor annoyance to a debilitating condition. Accordingly, treatment of a bulging disc varies from conservative stretching exercises to aggressive spine surgery. Regardless of the location or severity of the bulging disc, one fact remains: Living with pain and neurological symptoms from a bulging disc does not have to be a way of life.
In a regularly functioning spine, each vertebra is separated by a soft, spongy intervertebral disc. These thick pads act as a shock absorber for the back and neck and help give the spine its flexion and extension. However, because the spine also carries the burden of supporting most of the body’s weight, the intervertebral discs are prone to damage and deterioration – either suddenly as a result of injury or gradually as part of the aging process.
Also referred to as a swollen or protruded disc, bulging discs occurs when one or more of the intervertebral discs balloons out of its proper place between the vertebrae. While this swelling is not symptomatic itself, a bulging disc often comes into contact with a nearby nerve root, leading to nerve compression, impingement or irritation. It is this nerve compression that leads to symptoms associated with bulging discs, including: local, chronic back or neck pain, radiating pain, diminished motor skills and more.
Conservative Treatment First
Treatment of this abnormal disc is almost always first attempted conservatively. After a physical examination, a doctor will use some combination of bed rest, physical therapy, stretching exercises, back or neck braces, painkillers and more to manage a patient’s symptoms. Over the next several weeks, most symptoms will typically diminish and an individual will find pain relief.
However, sometimes a patient’s symptoms will gradually grow worse, be extreme in presentation, or become debilitating. In this instance, more involved treatments will be considered. This can come in two forms: intrusive open back surgery or minimally invasive endoscopic spine surgery. During open back surgery, the surgeon will typically remove the bulging disc in its entirety, and fuse the affected vertebrae together. With open back surgery, however, the patient incurs massive collateral tissue damage and the recovery and rehabilitation process are quite lengthy.
Endoscopic spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute (LSI), on the other hand, removes the portion of the bulging disc through a tiny incision with a computer-assisted, state-of-the-art gentle laser in a procedure known as a percutaneous endoscopic discectomy. This outpatient procedure decompresses the nerves surrounding the bulging disc and doesn’t require nearly as much rehabilitation or recuperation as traditional open back surgery.
If you are considering your treatment options for a bulging disc, contact the medical professionals at LSI today. We are happy to provide you with a free review of your MRI or CT scan, and give you the information you need to make an informed decision about your treatment.