A bulging disc can cause excruciating pain and restrict normal movement. The medical profession has no absolute cure-all but offers various treatments to reduce loss of movement and manage pain. In serious cases surgery can restore a lot of functions.
There are also alternative treatments worth thinking about ranging from acupuncture to spinal decompression.
One routine piece of advise is to reduce the kinds of movement that irritate a bulging disc. A doctor is the best person to consult on this issue.
Spinal discs are sacs filled with a jelly like substance that are found between the spinal vertebrae (the bones of the spine). The discs stop the vertebrae rubbing together and allow smooth movements of the spine if you twist around. They also absorb shocks when you walk or run.
Disc herniation (in the medical terminology) is when the jelly like substance leaks from between your vertebrae or there is a bulge in the membrane that contains it. A bulging disc may press on the nerves of the spinal column causing pain and restricting movement. Treatment may be needed to prevent permanent damage to the nerves or to reduce pain.
Causes of Bulging Discs
A cracked vertabra: the jelly like substance can leak through the crack or the disc itself may bulge out of the crack.
Disc weakening: as we age the jelly like material can shrink. The whole disc begins to collapse and can bulge out between the vertebrae.
Injuries: severe shock from a bad fall for instance can weaken a disc causing leakage or bulging.
Scar tissue from many small injuries can build up inside a disc increasing pressure and causing leakage.
- Back pain
- Chest shoulder buttock or pelvis pain
- Headaches if you sit or lie in particular positions
- Nasea or stomach pain
- Numbness or tingling in the legs
- Difficulty in walking or moving the legs
- Weakness in the whole body
How Bulging Discs are Diagnosed
A doctor can examine your spine for signs of anything unusual but to be sure of what is happening there are various x-ray and imaging tests which need to be done. A technique called Electromyography can look for any damage to the nerves caused by a bulging disc.
The Standard Medical Treatments for Bulging Discs
- Non steroidal inti-inflammatory medicines: these reduce pain and swelling. In many countries they don't need a prescription although they can cause stomach bleeding and even kidney problems so all warnings should be heeded. Talk to a pharmacist for these.
Muscle relaxants: These can reduce pain and help with movement.
Steroidal Medication: these reduce swelling in in an imflamed disc and reduce pain.
Chemonucleolysis: a medication is injected into the disc to shrink it and reduce the bulging.
Epidural injection: a shot into the area of the bulging dic to reduce pain.
Nerve Blocks: another medication to reduce pain.
If the back is weakened a brace can offer support and reduce pain.
Massage and physiotherapy can help strengthen back muscles easing movement and reducing pain.
If your bulging disc can not be managed in any other way surgery may be need to remove the disc and strengthen the back.
Alternative treatments for Bulging Discs
These can reduce pain and make the problems manageable.
They include Acupuncture, Electrotherapy (ultrasound, TENS, etc.), Exercises, Osteopathy, Massage Therapy, cold therapy.
This is a relatively new procedure that comes in various forms some involving non surgical manipulation of the spinal column using machines that stretch and compress the discs. Scientific studies have shown no overwhelming evidence that spinal decompression provides lasting relief from pain. On the hand some individuals say they have benefitted from it hugely.