What are the Treatment Options for a Bulging Disc?

Initial bulging disc treatment begins with rest and anti-inflammatory medication. There are multiple products that you can purchase without a prescription from your doctor that will help with the swelling. If these products have little or no effect your doctor may prescribe something stronger. If your pain is caused by inflammation, these drugs should help, but if it is not, acetaminophen can be taken for general pain relief.

Cold packs may also be applied to help with inflammation and swelling as well. During the initial 48 - 72 hours after your initial injury, you may begin to apply heat packs to encourage blood flow and healing.

If after a few weeks you do not improve, or your condition starts to get worse, physical therapy and activity modification is usually the next step for bulging disc treatment.

If your symptoms are severe and threaten to cause permanent damage to your spine or its surrounding structures, bulging disc surgery may be required before conservative methods are attempted.

Bulging Disc Surgery

Surgery for a bulging disc is rarely required and usually never attempted until 4 - 6 weeks of conservative treatments fail to bring relief to the patient.

In some rare cases, a bulging disc could cause numbness or muscle weakness that affects your walking, or may cause problems with bowel or bladder function. At this point, bulging disc surgery is usually considered a priority.

Surgical Options

Open Back Surgery

Traditionally, bulging discs are treated with an open back procedure, meaning the surgeon makes a large incision into the skin and cuts muscle and surrounding tissue to gain access to the problematic disc. This traditional surgical option is invasive, requires overnight hospitalization, general anesthesia, and requires a lengthy recovery coupled with strong pain medication.

Endoscopic Surgery:

Fortunately, you have a second option with endoscopic spine surgery. Thanks to the advancement of surgical technology at Atlantic Spine Center, bulged disc surgery can be performed using endoscopic procedures, meaning the surgeon makes a small incision to insert special surgical tools. During an endoscopic bulging disc operation, the surgeon uses a tiny camera to visualize and gain access to your damaged disc. This minimally invasive new approach offers shorter recovery, easier rehabilitation, and much higher success rate than open back or neck surgery. A local anesthetic is all that is usually required.

An endoscopic discectomy or an endoscopic foraminotomy may be performed to treat a bulging disc. For more detailed information about these two procedures please see our endoscopic surgery section.