What To Do After Being Diagnosed with a Bulging Disc
A bulging disc does not mean you will automatically experience back pain or symptoms of nerve compression, nor does it mean that you necessarily require back surgery. Patients with congenitally small foramina or those with an additional spine issue may experience back pain and symptoms of radiculopathy faster than most and, for these patients, a minimally invasive spine procedure at Laser Spine Institute can offer fast and effective relief. In many cases a bulging disc will rectify itself, given enough support, and there are many routes to take after being diagnosed with a bulging disc.
The intervertebral discs in the spine have a gel-like center and a more fibrous outer layer that helps keep the discs in shape and in place. As we age, or where specific spinal trauma occurs, the integrity of the outer disc can break down and fail and this is when a disc bulge may arise. Bulging discs are discs where the inner material of the disc has not actually leaked from the disc itself (this is known as a herniated disc), and so it is possible that the disc can repair itself and restore the correct disc shape. Unfortunately, the spine is rarely inactive and so it can be difficult to correct a bulging disc without help from specialists.
Non-surgical decompression is sometimes applied in cases of bulging discs and the intention here is to open up the spaces in the spine and essentially allow the problem disc to draw the bulging material back into its center before restoring the integrity of its fibrous outer ring. It’s important to discuss this kind of therapy for back pain with your physician prior to buying any devices for use at home or attending a clinic for spinal decompression. Done incorrectly, this could exacerbate the disc bulge or even lead to disc herniation.
Other important things to consider if you have a bulging disc are smoking, alcohol consumption, hydration, and nutrition. The intervertebral discs have poor circulation and so are liable to become dehydrated and brittle when the rest of the body is dehydrated. Alcohol not only increases inflammation in the system, it also dehydrates. Smoking introduces harmful chemicals into the body that interfere with collagen production, along with other processes. As the body needs collagen to repair the disc bulge, it is wise to quit smoking, especially as smokers have significantly worse outcomes after back surgery than non-smokers.
A healthy and balanced diet is also important in remedying a bulging discs as lots of sugars and refined foods can increase inflammation and impair healing processes as well as having the potential to lead to weight gain and extra strain on the spine. Eat nutritious foods and give your back the nutrients it needs to repair itself, thus avoiding back surgery.
Where physical therapy, activity restriction, non-surgical decompression, and other techniques fail to address symptoms of a bulging disc, it may be time to consider back surgery. Luckily, repair or removal of a bulging or herniated disc can be done using a minimally invasive technique, meaning that patients can avoid the painful and lengthy recovery process of open back surgery. It is usual to wait six months or so after a bulging disc is first noted before considering a discectomy or surgical decompression but if symptoms are severe it is worth discussing the option with your physician earlier or contacting Laser Spine Institute for an initial MRI review and assessment.