What to Do About a Bulging Disc

Person holds lower back in pain

Back pain is never fun, and it’s an unfortunate side effect of growing older. However, while mild soreness and pain can be relatively common, some issues are more dangerous. 

A bulging disc is one of the more prevalent issues people can experience, particularly as they age. The pain caused by a bulging disc can be moderate to severe, but the real problem is that a bulging disc can lead to a herniated disc, which is far more serious. 


What is a Bulging Disc?

If you are familiar with the spine, you should know that it is made of a series of bones called vertebrae. In between the vertebrae are soft tissues called spinal discs. This tissue acts as a shock absorber, allowing you to move and bend your back without significant pain. These discs also prevent the bones from scraping against each other. 

Each spinal disc is made up of soft, gel-like material on the inside, covered by a thick membrane. Unfortunately, as you get older, the gel breaks down, allowing the disc to compress. In some cases, it can push outward, creating a bulging disc

Typically, this situation occurs at the bottom of the spine, where the vertebrae experience the most pressure. Because there is less of a barrier between the bones, they can strike a nerve, causing intense pain. 


What are the Symptoms of a Bulging Disc?

Even if you experience mild back pain, a bulging disc can be much more apparent. The first symptom is a sharp pain, but other indicators can include: 

  • Increasing pain with movement.

  • Weakness and/or numbness in the legs and feet.

  • Difficulty walking.

  • Back muscle spasms.

  • Decreased bladder control.

  • Impaired coordination.

If you start to experience these issues, seek treatment immediately. 


What are the Risk Factors for a Bulging Disc?

The most prevalent risk factor is old age. As your body wears down, the gel inside the disc diminishes. This reduced buffer is why so many older adults experience consistent and chronic back pain. 

Back injuries can be another substantial risk factor. If you have been in a bad car accident, for example, you might have a much better chance of bulging discs. 

Other risk factors can include physically demanding jobs and strenuous physical activity. Unfortunately, the more pressure you put on your spinal discs, the weaker they get. There is no way to add more fluid into the disc, so once it’s gone, it’s gone. 

Another point to keep in mind is that a bulging disc can turn into a herniated disc. A herniated disc occurs when the outer membrane tears, allowing the gel fluid inside to leak out. If that happens, it can cause serious mobility issues and immense pain. 


Treatment Options for a Bulging Disc

The right treatment will depend on the severity of the problem. Regardless of the situation, bedrest is always recommended. Reducing the pressure on the disc can help it settle back in place and avoid further complications. 

Here are some common ways to mitigate a bulging disc: 

Topical Creams and Ointments

At first, the primary goal is to minimize pain and discomfort. Some topical ointments can soothe the affected area and help you feel better. While over-the-counter options might work, the best solution is a medicated cream with more potent ingredients. 

Over-the-Counter Pain Medication

Pills like Advil or Tylenol can also minimize the amount of discomfort. Another benefit of these medications is that they can reduce inflammation caused by the bulging disc. 

While it may be tempting to numb the pain as much as possible, doing so could cause you to damage the area further. Another risk factor is that you could develop drug dependence. 

Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy

Although intense activity and movement can damage your spinal discs, physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles around your back. By building them up, you can minimize the pressure on the vertebrae themselves, which can act as a long-term solution. 

Seeing a licensed chiropractor can also be an excellent way to reduce pain and prevent future incidents. Overall, better physical strength and flexibility can help keep your spine aligned and in shape, reducing both your risk factors and any additional back pain. 

Another benefit of seeing a chiropractor is that you can work on your spinal alignment, which also reduces pressure on your lower back. 


Make an Appointment With Dr. Apps Today

A bulging disc is not a condition to take lightly. Now is the time to act before the problem escalates, putting you on bed rest for even longer. Dr. Apps can help alleviate the pain and develop long-term solutions. If you believe you have a bulging disk schedule a free consultation with Dr. Apps.