Some people use the term “bulging disc” to refer to any type of disc-related discomfort. However, this term refers to inner material pushing through the outer layer of a disc. Approximately 90 percent of bulging discs are likely to occur in the lower back area, which can also affect the neck and upper spine. Luckily, there are several conservative treatments, like the seven discussed below, that may provide relief when a bulging disc is irritating a nearby nerve and affecting your daily life.
1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Bed rest isn’t good for bulging discs since too much inactivity can weaken spine-supporting muscles. However, making an effort to get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis can be a good thing for your spine’s discs, especially those that could benefit from some natural healing, which is what generally occurs during the deeper stages of sleep. Strive for about 7-9 hours of sleep per night to naturally ease inflammation and give your discs some time to heal.
2. Visit a Chiropractor
Part of the reason a bulging disc causes pain is because of the way the protruding disc material is positioned. One possible way to adjust your disc’s position in relation to nerve roots is with chiropractic adjustments, an approach to treatment that involves gentle manipulations of the spine. Following an initial evaluation, a chiropractor may recommend a treatment plan that includes:
• Muscle stimulation to ease muscle tension and increase flexibility
• Flexion-distraction to increase spinal motion
• Physiotherapy (physical therapy techniques)
• Supplementation to make up for nutritional deficiencies
• Stretches and exercises that can be performed at home
3. Explore Physical Therapy
A physical therapist can work with your Los Angeles spine surgeon to put together a personalized treatment plan to help you manage your discomfort from a bulging disc. Physical therapy sessions normally include a mix of stretches and exercises designed to increase mobility, flexibility, and range of motion, but it can also include:
• Gentle stretches
• Massage therapy
• Home-based exercise suggestions
• Posture-improvement exercises
4. Apply Heat and/or Ice
Heat and ice are tried-and-true remedies for pain management because they work in combination to ease nerve irritation and promote healing. Heat applications boost circulation, while ice reduces swelling and inflammation. Just remember to limit heat and/or ice applications to 15-20 minutes at a time and avoid direct skin contact.
5. Remain Active
Your musculoskeletal system was designed to move. For this reason, one of the most effective ways to manage discomfort from bulging discs is to find ways to stay active throughout your day. Even something as simple as taking a 20 to 30-minute walk may be good for your spine. If you reach a point where certain exercises are too difficult or painful, consider water-based activities or controlled-movement disciplines like yoga or Pilates.
6. Watch Your Posture
All of the muscles from your head to your toes directly or indirectly link to your spine in some way. Anything that affects certain muscle groups termed as the posterior muscle chain can place added pressure on your spine and any discs that are already damaged. Make an effort to keep your spine aligned and well-supported by:
• Taking frequent breaks if you have to sit for long periods
• Avoiding excessive slouching while watching TV or relaxing
• Standing up straight and keeping your head aligned with your shoulders
• Performing lower back, neck, or hamstring stretches to keep your spine-supporting muscles from getting stiff
• Avoiding excessively high heels
7. Control Your Weight and Eat More Anti-Inflammatory Foods
The foods you eat on a regular basis can affect your bones, muscles, and joints, especially the ones within or around your spine. If you’re eating sugary snacks, processed foods, and refined grain and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol and sugary beverages, you may be making your discomfort worse by increasing inflammation and irritation around your bulging spinal disc. Instead, ease pressure on your spine by maintaining a healthy weight and opting for foods that naturally minimize inflammation, such as:
• Leafy green veggies like spinach, kale, and collards
• Lean proteins and low-fat dairy products
• Oily/fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel
• Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and other berries
Seeking medical input because for a bulging disc doesn’t necessarily mean surgery will be your only option. Depending on the nature of the damage to your spinal disc and how nerves are being compressed, you may benefit from other conservative treatments like non-surgical decompression involving a specially designed traction table. If surgery is your best bet for relief, most common procedures performed today are done with minimally invasive techniques designed to reduce risks and recovery periods.
There are various minimally invasive procedures to treat the pain caused by a bulging disc or other spinal issue. At The Spine Institute, we offer a wide array of treatments such as ACDF, XLIF, and TLIF. Los Angeles residents who believe they might need surgery to treat their bulging disc can trust Dr. Hyun Bae to provide relief. To schedule an appointment, give us a call at 310-828-7757 today.