Bulging disc eaealing time has many variants, including the level of fitness of the person prior to the treatment, the cause of the bulging disc and the type of treatment used. These three factors can dictate how long it will take before you can return to your daily activities after a bulging disc treatment. Another factor in your bulging disc healing time is how well you adhere to the postsurgical guidelines if surgery is your method of treatment.
Setting proper expectations for your bulging disc healing time can help you stay positive after your treatment. Talk to your doctor about the timeframe for your specific treatment process and work together to set reasonable expectations for your recovery.
Bulging disc healing time after conservative treatment
The first method to treat a bulging disc is often conservative, nonsurgical treatment. This is especially true if the cause of your bulging disc is the natural degeneration of the spine or a minor injury.
As your doctor discusses your conservative treatment options, be sure to ask questions about your recovery time. Each type of treatment may have different recovery expectations. For example, physical therapy may yield a shorter bulging disc healing time than chiropractic care.
Also understand that sometimes the treatment with the shortest bulging disc healing time is not always the best treatment for your specific needs. While this can be a factor in you and your doctor’s decision for your treatment, it should not be the final deciding factor. Certain conservative bulging disc treatments may be more beneficial than others based on the cause, location and severity of your condition as well as your lifestyle.
The most common forms of conservative treatment used for a bulging disc include:
- Physical therapy
- Pain medication
- Chiropractic care
- Corticosteroid injections
- Yoga and stretching
- Rest (limited)
- Massage therapy
While each type of conservative treatment has a different expectation for recovery, the average bulging disc healing time using nonsurgical treatment is about two to three months. During this time, the body will have had time to reduce pressure on the bulging disc, whether on its own or with the help of physical therapy and other programs, and the disc would have had time to return to its normal shape.
If after two or three months you have not experienced acceptable pain relief, your doctor may recommend surgery to treat your bulging disc.
Bulging disc healing time from surgery
Identifying the standard bulging disc healing time after surgery depends more on the type of surgery performed than anything else, although your current health and fitness status also affects the recovery process.
Typically, there are two types of surgery used to treat a bulging disc: traditional spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery. While these two types of procedures have the same goals — to reduce the pressure from the bulging disc on the pinched nerve and, if necessary, stabilize the spine — the approach to these goals is vastly different. Because of this different approach, patients can experience a different recovery time after surgery.
For a traditional open neck or back surgery, the bulging disc healing time often takes about six months, though some patients have reported both longer and shorter recovery time. Comparatively, the average recovery time for a minimally invasive bulging disc surgery is about three months or twelve weeks, though again, some patients report shorter and longer healing times.
The reason for the difference in bulging disc healing time is that traditional spine surgery is much more invasive, requiring more time for the body to heal after surgery before normal activities can be resumed. One way the techniques are more invasive is during the initial incision. Traditional spine surgery requires a larger incision than minimally invasive spine surgery, 5-10 inches compared to sometimes as small as 1-inch. This larger incision sometimes also cuts through the muscle surrounding the spine, increasing the risk of complication and excessive scar tissue, and prolonging the healing time to allow the muscles to rebuild.
Tips to reduce your bulging disc healing time
While the bulging disc healing time differs depending on the type of surgery performed, one important aspect of healing properly is sticking to the postoperative guidelines outlined by your surgical team and doctor.
Postoperative instructions often focus on two things: activities you should avoid and activities you should do. For example, you should avoid heavy lifting for the first few weeks or more following your bulging disc surgery, but you should take a short walk every day during the weeks after your surgery. Your doctor will give you the specific guidelines based on your procedure, medical history and lifestyle.
Before you decide which procedure is right for you, talk to your doctor about the expected recovery times and guidelines following each type of treatment and make sure you are comfortable with and confident in the treatment option you choose.