Lower Back Pain

Get Relief from Bulging Disc Pain: Causes and Treatment

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Individuals dealing with back pain problems could be suffering from a bulging disc. Could knowing the difference between slipped and herniated disc symptoms help with treatments and finding relief?

Bulging Disc Pain

Back pain can become debilitating if not treated properly. A bulging disc is a common cause of cervical, thoracic, and lower back pain symptoms. It happens when one of the fluid-filled cushions between the vertebrae begins to shift out of place. Instead of being aligned with the edges, the disc bulges over. This begins to generate pressure on the nerves causing pain and inflammation.

  • Bulging discs are often caused by age, but repetitive movements and/or lifting heavy objects can contribute to the condition.
  • Symptoms can resolve on their own, but individuals are recommended to consult with a physical therapist and/or chiropractor to make sure the disc healed properly, otherwise, it can lead to worsening and/or further injuries.

Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc

Bulging and herniated discs cause pain symptoms.

  1. Bulging – the intervertebral disc moves out of place but stays intact.
  2. Herniated – the thick outer layer of the disc ruptures, causing the cushioning gel inside to leak onto the spinal nerves.

Location of Symptoms

  • A bulging disc can happen anywhere along the spine.
  • However, most occur between the last five vertebrae in the lower back.
  • This is the lumbar spine. (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2022)
  • This is because the lower back is subject to all kinds of pressure and movement with daily activities, increasing the chances of pain and injuries.
  • The next most common place is the neck/cervical spine where there are constant movements making it prone to injury and pain symptoms.

Causes

Bulging discs are most often caused by body aging and normal wear and tear. As time goes on the intervertebral discs naturally degenerate, known as degenerative disc disease. This can cause the discs to pull downward, causing them to bulge from their placement. (Penn Medicine. 2018) Factors that can cause or worsen the condition include:

  • Practicing unhealthy postures.
  • Repetitive motions.
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Spinal injuries.
  • Medical history of spinal or disc disease in the family.

Treatment

Treating a bulging disc takes time and patience. (American Academy of Neurological Surgeons. 2023)

Examination

Individuals with back pain that interferes with daily functions or has lasted longer than six weeks, should see a healthcare provider for diagnosis. They will order a magnetic resonance imaging scan/MRI, which can show where a disc is protruding. (American Academy of Neurological Surgeons. 2023)

Rest

  • For bulging disc pain, resting the back is necessary. However,
  • Many patients benefit from a day or two of bed rest. (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2022)
  • After that, start light activities like walking. Avoid any movements that make your pain worse.

NSAIDs

  • NSAID pain medications like Advil, Motrin, or Aleve can keep pain symptoms and inflammation reduced.
  • However, this is for short-term use, as the underlying cause still needs to be addressed.
  • A healthcare provider will recommend safe dosage and how long these medications should be taken. (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2022)

Physical Therapy

Steroid Injection

  • An epidural steroid injection can provide relief for individuals still experiencing symptoms after six weeks.
  • A healthcare provider will inject cortisone into the spine to reduce inflammation and pain. (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2022)

Surgery

  • If conservative treatments don’t work, a healthcare provider may recommend surgery, like a microdiscectomy.
  • This procedure uses small incisions to remove all or part of a bulging disc.
  • Most individuals with a bulging disc will not require surgery. (American Academy of Neurological Surgeons. 2023)

Inflammation: Integrative Medicine Approach


References

Penn Medicine. (2018) Bulging disc vs. herniated disc: What’s the difference?

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2022) Herniated disk in the lower back.

American Academy of Neurological Surgeons. (2023) Herniated disc.

National Institutes of Health. (2022) Spinal Manipulation: What You Need To Know.

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Professional Scope of Practice *

The information herein on "Get Relief from Bulging Disc Pain: Causes and Treatment" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from various disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

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We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez, DC, or contact us at 915-850-0900.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

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