What To Do If You Have A Bulging Disc In Your Lower Back

What To Do If You Have A Bulging Disc In Your Lower Back

Bulging discs in the lower back are a common cause of back pain. By definition, this condition is a weakening of the outer lining of the disc that allows the inner layers to push out and bulge the outer rim of the disc. There are varying levels of severity—for instance, a herniated disc is when the nucleus of the disc is actually protruding. The more severe the case, the more advanced treatment you’ll need. But most bulging disc pain can be treated with natural remedies, in many cases giving the abnormal disc the time it needs to repair itself.

A Bulging Disc Without Back Pain?

Did you know that many people have bulging discs without realizing it? In fact, you may have had one you didn’t know about—and never felt any pain. A study published in the July 1994 New England Journal Of Medicine took MRI scans of 98 people with no low back pain (recruited randomly with flyers and newspaper ads); the scans were examined for signs of disc bulges, protrusions, and extrusions. Fifty-two percent of participants without back pain had one or more bulging discs.

How is it possible to have a bulging disc in your lower back with no pain? The affected disc only becomes a problem when it protrudes enough to push against a nerve, such as the spinal cord. Or, it may touch somewhere along the sciatic chain of nerves that goes to your buttocks, legs, and feet, which often results in sciatica—pain running down one or both legs from the lower back.

There’s no reason to worry about a bulging disc unless it’s causing you pain, usually in your lower back, thigh, or below your knee to your foot. When that happens, talk to your doctor about trying one of the natural remedies named in this article as a first step.

How To Manage Pain From A Bulging Disc In Your Lower Back

Many doctors advise people suffering from a bulging disc to try conservative treatment options first. That’s a good idea, considering most patients gradually recover from disc abnormalities on their own, without surgery, over the course of several weeks to a couple of months.

All the options listed below can help to manage pain. Start with the lower-risk options, like rest, medication, and therapy, before advancing to injections. You may see something on the list you think you’d never try, but I encourage you to keep an open mind. Not all measures work for all people, so if you try one option and it’s ineffective, talk to your doctor and move on—but don’t eliminate something that has a chance of being helpful.

  1. Rest. As long as you can tolerate this, try it. Give your body time to heal over a couple weeks. If you can’t handle it, try the next option.
  2. Take medication. When a disc herniates there’s a chemical reaction that creates an inflammatory response as the body tries to calm it down. That inflammation presses against the nerve even more. Try anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation, or try muscle relaxants.
  3. Try therapy. Once you get the swelling down, you could try therapy to create stability and strengthen the muscles around your core and back, and help improve the function of the spine. Options for therapy include yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic care, physical therapy, decompression, and massage therapy.
  4. Get an epidural steroid injection. Injecting a steroid right on the disc herniation sometimes reduces inflammation around the spinal nerves. For some people, this option provides relief for anywhere from a week to a month, sometimes even years.

If your low back pain does require surgery, here’s an innovative new procedure you should know about.

Studies show that about 80% of herniated disc cases resolve themselves within approximately six weeks, though it’s not an exact science. Taking the time to try some or all of these options may help you to avoid surgery. Talk to your doctor for guidance about where to start, when to move on to the next treatment, and, eventually, whether you might need surgery to resolve the problem.

Regain Control - BalancedBack

Back to excerpts

Ready to have your case reviewed?