If you have recently been diagnosed with a bulging disc in your lower back you might be wondering what that means, what your treatment options are and whether or not you will need surgery. A bulging disc in the lower back happens when the tough outer layer of a spinal disc is flatted and bulges out of the normal space it occupies into the spinal canal. A bulging disc can be caused by the natural aging process, wear and tear on the spine, an injury or hereditary risk factors.

Symptoms of a bulging disc in the lower back

A bulging disc in the lower back can cause symptoms that disrupt your everyday life and make simple activities such as sitting, driving or bending over very painful. A bulging disc in the lower back can cause localized pain in the lower back as well as pain that radiates from the location of the bulging disc to the buttocks, leg, foot and toes. When a bulging disc in the lower back causes radiating pain that travels the path of the sciatic nerve, it is referred to as sciatica. A bulging disc in the lower back can also cause muscle weakness that may make walking difficult or cause you to be clumsy. Symptoms can also include numbness, tingling or a pins-and-needles sensation. If you experience a loss of bladder or bowel control seek immediate medical attention, as it can be a sign of a serious spinal cord injury.

Treatment for a bulging disc in the lower back

Most people with a bulging disc in the lower back do not require surgery. For most people suffering from a bulging disc, conservative treatment options provide symptom control and help them get back to their everyday lives. Conservative treatment options for a bulging disc in the lower back include:

  • Rest
  • Physical therapy
  • Heat and ice therapy
  • Exercise and stretching
  • Pain medication
  • Steroid injections

Your physician may also recommend making certain lifestyle modification such as quitting smoking, limiting the amount of alcohol you consume, losing excess weight to attain a healthy body weight and avoiding high-impact and contact sports.

If after a few months of conservative treatment for a bulging disc in the lower back you are still experiencing painful symptoms, talk with your physician about bulging disc surgery.