Back pain is experienced by most persons at some point in time. Back pain associated with a bulging or herniated disc may well be the worst. While both terms are generally used interchangeably, they are not really the same. A bulging disc occurs over time and may not be painful. While the disc bulges it remains closed, that is, the substance inside does not leak out.
A herniated disc on the other hand develops due to trauma and is normally open, hence the name herniated. In fact, a bulging disc can become a herniated disc. This type of disc condition generally causes pain.
Bulging occurs when the nucleus pulposes, a soft, spongy material inside the intervertebral discs, starts to push against the disc. This in turn exerts pressure against the ligaments. While this condition happens most in the aged, it is not confined to the elderly.
The pain from a herniated disc results from the chemicals in the nucleus pulposes irritating the nerve endings in the spine and spinal cavity. Plus, as the discs burst open, fragments may end up inside the spinal canal causing further discomfort.
Treatment for Bulging Discs
The treatment option is dependent on the severity of the back pain. The most common treatment options are:
” Rest is recommended if the pain is severe. This is almost always the first course of action when someone is diagnosed with bulging disc problems. This minimizes the stress placed on the back and spine on a daily basis. Since lack of movement can weaken back muscles, the period of rest should not be prolonged as it may aggravate the problem. It is important to also avoid activities that make the pain worse.
” Exercise: Many back exercises and stretches can help with the pain of a bulging disc. Yoga is not too strenuous and walking is also recommended for treating a bulging disc problem. The exercises recommended not only help with pain management, but also strengthen the back muscles.
” Physical therapy: Sometimes a doctor will recommend physical therapy to help with the discomfort of a bulging disc. There are special exercises and routines that the physical therapists put their patients through to alleviate the pain.
” Heat and Cold therapy: Applying heat or cold packs to the affected area can bring relief. A warm shower can be useful as well. Some experts recommend that heat or cold be applied for about 15 minutes every couple of hours.
” Pain medication and anti-inflammatory medicines: While these will not treat the bulging disc, they can minimize the associated pain and discomfort. This can make a big difference to the individual’s wellbeing.
” Surgery is a treatment of last resort. In most cases, surgery is not needed to correct a bulging disc.
A bulging disc is not the end of the world, especially since many cases do not case any problems. In fact, sometimes bulging discs go undetected and the condition eventually heals itself. Maintaining an active lifestyle and exercising will help protect against discs problems later in life.
Written By: Updated: June 24,2011