What does it mean to receive a bulging disc diagnosis?

If you have just received a diagnosis for a bulging disc from your physician or spine care specialist, you may be wondering what your diagnosis means and what your next steps to find treatment should be. Maybe you’ve started researching bulging discs and the treatment options available, and you are feeling overwhelmed at the idea of having to pick a treatment amid all of the available options.

Whatever you are feeling in this moment, we want you to know that you are not alone. About 80 percent of Americans experience neck or back pain at some point in life. There are several treatment options available to help you relieve your pain, and our Care Team at Laser Spine Institute is here to help walk you through the process of finding the best treatment option for your needs and finishing your journey to wellness.

In order to fully understand what your bulging disc diagnosis means, we should start at the beginning by explaining the condition and then moving to the available treatment options.

What is a bulging disc?

A bulging disc, sometimes referred to as a “slipped disc,” is a degenerative spine condition that develops naturally over time as a result of wear and tear of the spine.

The spine is composed mainly of vertebrae and discs, as well as other functioning components. The discs are found between the vertebrae and act as a support or cushion to properly space the vertebrae and prevent the vertebrae from colliding when the spine bends or moves.

Over time, pressure on the spine from weight gain and repetitive motion can cause the vertebrae to squeeze a disc in between them. The more the disc is squeezed, the more it flattens and expands. Eventually, if nothing is done to alleviate the pressure on the spine, the disc will expand and “bulge” into the spinal canal, possibly impacting a nerve and causing chronic pain.

A bulging disc is usually not symptomatic in and of itself. In fact, if a patient receives a bulging disc diagnosis, in most cases he or she is more accurately being diagnosed with nerve compression as a result of a bulging disc. The distinction here is essential to understand. A disc that swells or becomes weakened will usually only be detected when the disc wall comes in contact with a nerve, nerve root or the spinal cord within the spinal canal. In fact, many people experience bulging discs without ever knowing it.

Treatment options for a bulging disc

If you have received a diagnosis for a bulging disc, you are most likely already experiencing pain and symptoms associated with the condition. There are several treatment options that you can discuss with your physician or spine care specialist.

In many cases, bulging disc symptoms can be managed with a series of noninvasive treatments — many of which can be accomplished at home. Some examples of the most commonly recommended treatments include:

  • Low-impact exercises
  • Stretching
  • Heat application
  • Deep tissue massage
  • The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or pain medication
  • Posture improvement
  • Limited rest

In the event that several weeks or months of this type of treatment fails to offer the pain relief desired, nerve decompression surgery may be considered.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive outpatient procedures as safer, effective alternatives to traditional open neck and back surgeries. For moderate nerve compression, we offer a minimally invasive decompression surgery that would remove a small portion of the bulging disc to release the impacted nerve root in the spinal canal. More severely impacted nerves may require a minimally invasive stabilization surgery, which involves the surgeon replacing the bulging disc with a disc implant to decompress the nerve root and stabilize the spine.

To learn about the numerous benefits of our minimally invasive procedures and for more information on your bulging disc diagnosis, contact us today.

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