Can a bulging disc heal naturally?For many people diagnosed with a bulging disc, the prominent question is, “Can a bulging disc heal naturally?” The answer …
Bulging disc definition, symptoms and treatments
A bulging disc occurs when the exterior shell of a cushioning spinal disc deteriorates and allows its soft interior to push outward. This causes the disc to bulge beyond its usual boundaries. In the densely packed spinal column, an out-of-place disc can put pressure on a neighboring component of the spine. Sometimes, a bulging disc can “pinch” a nearby nerve root or the spinal cord, potentially causing localized symptoms as well as traveling pain and other issues.
Bulging disc symptoms
Many people have bulging or herniated discs and never know it because those conditions don’t always cause problems. In some cases, a herniated disc can create discomfort or stiffness in the immediate area, particularly when it occurs in the neck. However, the only noticeable symptoms often occur in the extremities, when a disc bulges onto a nerve that runs to an arm or leg. In those cases, the resulting nerve compression can lead to symptoms such as:
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle spasms
- Pins-and-needles or tingling feelings
- Burning sensations
Because these symptoms can be connected to many causes, a physician will usually order some tests and images before diagnosing a patient with a bulging disc.
Bulging and herniated discs don’t always require extensive intervention, with many cases resolving on their own as the body heals. In other situations, when the symptoms are too severe or last more than a week or two, a physician may recommend a treatment plan for a patient.
Pain and inflammation can often be managed using medications while stretching and physical therapy can keep the muscles that support the spine limber and strong. In more severe cases, epidural injections near the site of a bulging disc may be used to temporarily alleviate symptoms. Only in rare circumstances is surgery recommended for damaged spinal discs.
There are two main approaches to bulging disc surgery — traditional open spine procedures and minimally invasive options. Minimally invasive surgery can provide patients with advantages like shorter recovery times. However, it is important for patients to consult with their physicians and surgeons before making definitive choices about their care options.