The importance of diagnostic imagery for bulging disc treatment

A medical image of a bulging disc — such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan — is one of the tools a doctor or spine specialist uses to determine the course of treatment in the presence of chronic spinal nerve compression. In the United States, 80 percent of people will experience neck or back pain at some point in their lives. While many of those cases are related to minor strains or sprains that improve in a short period of time, longer lasting pain and other symptoms may be the result of spine conditions like a bulging disc.

This condition occurs when the outer wall of a spinal disc bulges out of its normal perimeter in the spinal column. If bulging disc material compresses a spinal nerve, it can cause shooting pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness. If these symptoms become debilitating, a doctor might order medical imaging to find out the location and extent of disc damage in order to provide a precise and appropriate treatment plan.

Types of treatment for a bulging disc

Once the underlying cause of symptoms is determined through a full physical examination and diagnostic tests, your doctor can recommend treatment. There are several conservative methods that are effective for managing the symptoms of a bulging disc and are usually first attempted. These include:

  • Low-impact exercise such as walking or riding a stationary bike
  • Stretching to improve flexibility
  • Core-strengthening exercises
  • Hot/cold compression on the site of nerve compression
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Prescription or over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and pain medication

Depending on results, the combination of methods used might change as the treatment progresses.

Bulging disc imagery and surgery

If pain and other symptoms persist after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery might become an option. Diagnostic imagery becomes extremely important in treating a bulging disc during this phase. In order to make a surgical recommendation, a surgeon needs to see the exact location and extent of nerve compression. In many cases, a new image of your bulging disc may need to be taken during the surgical evaluation process.

If you’ve been recommended for surgery, but have concerns about undergoing a highly invasive traditional open spine procedure, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is often the clinically appropriate first choice compared to traditional procedures, offering advantages like a streamlined outpatient experience and a shorter recovery time.^

To find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review.* 

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