Conventional Medical Treatments for a Bulging Disc


What is a bulging disc?

Spinal discs are pads of cartilage located between the vertebrae in the spinal column; they support the spine and keep the back pliable. When the tough, outer cartilage of a disc “bulges out” from the spinal vertebrae, it is considered a bulging disc. This can occur from an injury or the natural “wear and tear” of aging.

Conventional medical treatments

Several conventional treatments are available for a bulging disc in the spine. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and other symptoms, such as tingling or numbness. Treatment options include medications, physical therapy, and surgical procedures.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce inflammation and pain caused by a bulging disc. Examples include ibuprofen and naproxen.
  • Prescription medications may be prescribed if over-the-counter medications do not provide sufficient relief. Prescription medications that may help include opioid pain relievers or muscle relaxers.
  • Physical therapy can help strengthen the core and back muscles to help relieve nerve pressure from a bulging disc.
  • Cortisone injections, such as epidural steroid injections, can provide pain relief that typically lasts longer than pain medications.
  • Intraosseous basivertebral nerve ablation is a relatively new treatment in which radiofrequency energy (heat) is used to disrupt the ability of a nerve to send pain signals to the brain.
  • Microdiscectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the part of a disc that is pressing on a nerve.

In most cases, conservative treatments are effective at reducing pain and other symptoms from a bulging disc. Only a small percentage of cases require surgical treatment.

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