Neck or back 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 neck and back 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 swollen or protruded discs, bulging discs occur 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 results in symptoms associated with bulging discs, including local, chronic neck or back pain, radiating pain, diminished motor skills and more.
Conservative treatment first
Treatment of a damaged disc is almost always first attempted conservatively. After a physical examination, a physician will use some combination of bed rest, physical therapy, stretching exercises, neck or back braces, painkillers and other conservative methods 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 these instances, more involved treatments will be considered, such as surgery. Spine surgical procedures are available in two forms: intrusive traditional open back surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery. During traditional open back surgery, a surgeon will typically remove the bulging disc in its entirety and fuse the affected vertebrae together. With traditional open back surgery, however, a patient incurs massive collateral tissue damage and the recovery and rehabilitation process are quite lengthy.
Minimally invasive alternative
One of the minimally invasive spine procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute – known as a discectomy – involves the removal of a portion of the bulging disc through a small incision. This outpatient procedure decompresses the nerves surrounding the bulging disc and doesn’t require nearly as much rehabilitation or recuperation time as traditional open back surgery.
If you are considering your treatment options for a bulging disc, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We are happy to provide you with a review of your MRI or CT scan, and give you the information you need to make an informed decision about your treatment.