A bulging disc can cause painful symptoms and disrupt your everyday activities. Symptoms can range from local pain, radiating pain, numbness, tingling, muscle spasms and muscle weakness.

Bulging disc treatment: heat therapy

Heat therapy, also referred to as thermotherapy, can be an effective conservative treatment option for a bulging disc. Heat increases blood flow to the affected area and also increases the amount of oxygen supplied to the area. Increased blood flow and oxygen can help to reduce pain and relax sore muscles. Heat therapy is especially effective at treating muscle cramps and muscle pain. For some patients, heat therapy can provide a mild analgesic effect, decreasing pain and increasing your overall comfort. Heat therapy can be applied using any of the following methods:

  • Electric heating pad
  • Warm compress or hot towels
  • Instant heat pack
  • Microwavable heat pad
  • Hot water bottle filled with warm water
  • Make your own rice or bean sock to heat in the microwave
  • Soaking in a warm bath

Never apply heat for longer than 20 minutes at a time and protect your skin to avoid burns or irritation.

Bulging disc treatment: ice therapy

Ice therapy, also referred to a cryotherapy or cold therapy, is also an effective part of conservative treatment for a bulging disc. Ice therapy helps to reduce swelling and inflammation while reducing pain. Cooling the affected area down can reduce the blood flow to the area. Cold therapy can be applied using any of the following methods:

  • Chemical or instant cold pack
  • Gel ice pack
  • Ice in a plastic bag
  • Hot water bottle filled with ice and cold water
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Soak in a cold tub

Always use a cloth or towel between your skin and the cold source to avoid damage to your skin and never apply cold therapy for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Avoid cold therapy if you have circulatory problems.

Bulging disc treatment: combining heat and ice therapy

A bulging disc can benefit from heat and ice therapy being applied in succession. Both offer different benefits that can reduce pain and speed up the healing process. Both forms of therapy are relatively inexpensive and can easily be applied at home or on the go.

Combining heat and ice therapy, along with other conservative treatment, can typically control the painful symptoms associated with a bulging disc. If symptoms persist after a few months, consult with your physician about more aggressive treatment such as bulging disc surgery.