If you have been diagnosed with a bulging disc, one of your first questions may be: who treats a bulging disc? This is possibly one of the most important questions you can ask as you begin to research your treatment options and start your journey toward pain relief.

When searching for a doctor who treats a bulging disc, you should ask yourself and others a few questions to make sure you are confident with your choice in a specialist. There are many bulging disc and spine doctors in every major city, so it’s important to make sure you are choosing the best doctor for your specific condition and medical history.

Identifying the type of doctor who treats a bulging disc

Typically, a patient with a bulging disc has two options for a spine specialist: an orthopedic specialist or a neurologist.

Orthopedic doctors specialize in the musculoskeletal system, including the bones and joints of the spine. This can include the discs that cushion the vertebrae and facet joints within the spine, allowing the spine to bend and move without nerve compression. An orthopedic doctor can help you find conservative treatments to relieve the painful nerve compression caused by bulging discs.

Neurologists, meanwhile, are a doctors who specialize in the nervous system, which includes the nerves near the spine and the spinal cord itself. If a bulging disc is compressing a nerve root or the spinal cord and causing chronic pain, a neurologist can help you find treatments to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve so you can return to your daily activities.

Some of the conservative treatments recommended by both orthopedic specialists and neurologists include:

  • Periods of rest
  • Physical therapy
  • Low-impact exercises
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage therapy
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Pain medication

How to choose a doctor who treats a bulging disc

Though there are generally only two types of doctors who treat a bulging disc, there are several of those doctors in any given area. How do you choose the right doctor for your specific needs?

The first place to start is with your primary care physician. For many people, this is the doctor who originally diagnosed the bulging disc. Your primary care physician is an important step on your journey to wellness because this doctor has knowledge of your current lifestyle and medical history. These two factors can greatly dictate the doctor you should see to help treat your condition.

For example, if your primary care physician knows you have a bulging disc and a history of arthritis of the spine, low calcium and trouble with weakening bones, an orthopedic specialist will likely be your best bet for the type of treatment specific to your condition and medical needs. Similarly, if you have a history of pinched nerves or radiating pain from your pinched nerve (pain that travels from the nerve to other areas of the body, like the hands or feet), your doctor may recommend a neurologist for a more holistic view of your central nervous system, including your bulging disc.

Your primary care physician will also be able to recommend certain lifestyle changes to help treat your condition, which may negate you having to see a specialist. For some patients, simple lifestyle changes like weight loss, quitting the use of tobacco and limiting alcohol consumption may help treat the bulging disc and decompress the pinched spinal nerve.

If your doctor does suggest you see a specialist, he or she can recommend one who treats a bulging disc and has knowledge about any other medical conditions you may have. Remember, your doctor has likely been established in your area for a number of years, and can therefore recommend the best doctor for your specific needs.

How to choose a doctor who treats a bulging disc is surgery is needed

If you’ve exhausted conservative treatments and are still suffering from the chronic pain and symptoms of a bulging disc, you may need to schedule spine surgery to treat the condition at its source.

In a similar manner to finding a doctor who treats a bulging disc, finding a surgeon who treats a bulging disc will often come from recommendations from your primary care physician and the specialist you have been seeing for your conservative treatment. Many surgery centers and hospitals have both orthopedic surgeons and neurological surgeons, so you can continue to stay in the same field of treatment even for your spine surgery.

Next steps

If you’re ready to start your journey to wellness and pain relief, talk to your primary care physician about a referral to a doctor in your area who treats a bulging disc. Once you find your specialist, you can begin conservative and surgical (if necessary) treatments to help you get back to your normal quality of life.