Bulging Disc Symptoms and Treatments

Bulging Disc Symptoms and Treatments

If you have a bulging disc that interferes with your daily lifestyle, it’s time to call your medical professionals. It’s also time to start your research into the right treatments for the bulging disc condition. As we get older, the chances of bulging disk increases as spinal discs lose their elasticity, lubricating fluid, structure, and then become more brittle.

The good news is, there are ways to prevent a bulging disc from developing in the first place. In addition, there are ways to improve your condition with changes to your lifestyle. If this is something that you relate to, please continue reading to learn about symptoms, causes, and treatments for bulging discs.

What Causes a Bulging Disc?

People over 40 are more susceptible to bulging discs, however, they develop at any age. Interestingly, bulging discs are twice as common with men as they are with women.

A bulging disc is a spinal disc that compresses against a nearby nerve which causes the pain or discomfort. Furthermore, bulging discs might happen because of a variety of physical events that include natural aging, chronic poor posture, or not knowing how to lift objects without damaging your back.

If you think you might have a bulging disc, it’s important to seek the right treatments for bulging disc because, aside from the discomfort, there are other complications that arise from this condition.

What Do Bulging Discs Do?

When discs are healthy, they cushion the space between each vertebra (the small bones in our spines.) They act as shock absorbers for the body and allow us to move around with flexibility.

What Do They Look Like?

Let’s start with a description of a spinal disc. First, it begins with a soft, gel-like center of flexible cartilage – this is the nucleus pulposus. Next, a tougher layer of cartilage (annulus fibrosus) surrounds the nucleus and holds everything in place.

What Happens When We Age?

As a natural phase of our aging process, humans tend to experience more inflammation as they get older. We also might go through accidents that cause injury to the back. All this contributes to the likelihood of the disc stretching and becoming wider. In addition, compression may also occur.

Compression Causes the Bulge

Both continuous pressure and poor posture lead to compression and bulging of the disc. When the pressure gets too great, the disc expands outward and into soft nerve tissue. However, it is the eventual contact with the spinal canal that causes sharp pains or tingling sensations.

Symptoms of Bulging Disc

Bulging discs usually develop in the back, however, they also affect other areas of the body. The discomfort occurs when the bulging disc touches nerves that they should not be touching. Additionally, this causes discomfort to nerves that connect with your buttocks, feet, hips, legs, and neck. That’s why it’s common for people to feel bulging disc pain in many areas and often, throughout the entire body.

Cervical Bulging Disc

This is a bulging disc that happens in the neck area. This condition causes the most pain in the arms, elbows, fingers, hands, shoulders, and wrists. If you have a bulging disc in the neck may include the following symptoms:

  • Noticeable weakness in the hand and arm.
  • Difficulty moving fingers.
  • Unusual neck pain.
  • Shoulders tingle and get numb.
  • Feelings of heaviness in the legs.

Thoracic Bulging Disc

Although uncommon, if a bulging disc occurs in the spine between the collar bone and the lower portion of the rib cage, this is a thoracic bulging disc. The symptoms are as follows:

  • Upper back discomfort that travels to the abdomen or chest.
  • Symptoms like that of a heart attack or gastrointestinal issues and are sometimes mistaken for these illnesses.

Lumbar Bulging Disc

The lumbar region is the spine between the waist and hips. When it occurs in this area, it is a lumbar bulging disc. Interestingly, if it proceeds to compress the sciatic nerve, it is then a sciatic bulging disc.

This condition causes the most pain in the abdomen, buttocks, feet, and legs.

The symptoms you may expect are as follows:

  • It starts with pain in the lower back that travels to the buttocks.
  • Legs feel like they’re tingling.
  • It causes muscle spasms.

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Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc

It is worth noting that many people, including doctors, have differences of opinions over what defines a bulging disc vs herniated disc. To break it down, think of a herniated disc as a break or crack in the disc’s outer cartilage which allows fluid to escape. Additionally, some refer to this as a ruptured disc or slipped disc. Herniated discs are less common and cause immediate pain.

On the other hand, a bulging disc stretches and protrudes outward, touching nearby nerves. Although it is more common, it often goes without notice and has no symptoms.

Tip o’ the Hat to Dr. Axe.

Bulging Disc Treatment Options

Treatments for bulging disc include physical therapy with medications for pain. If these treatments are not effective, or if the patient is experiencing excruciating pain, surgery may be an option. However, only about ten percent of people end up getting corrective surgery.

For many others, their discs heal within months and the pain is gone. But, achieving that involves taking the right steps to treat your condition. In addition, there are steps you can take to reduce inflammation and heal your disc naturally.

Let’s go through a few of the treatments for bulging disc you can do to keep your spine healthy in addition to healing a bulging disc.

Sleep and Rest

Make it your top priority to get enough sleep each night. That looks like about seven to nine hours for most adults. This is important for our bodies because it helps keep stress hormones at bay, supports a healthy weight, and reduces further injury risks.

Additionally, if you work out, give your body time to recuperate between workouts. Also, be moderate with your training. In other words, be cautious not to over-train. Unfortunately, this leads to inflammation and weakening of discs which might cause a bulging disc to occur.

Pay Attention to Your Posture

People who work at desks all day, year after year are prime candidates for bulging disc as they grow older. However, this is avoidable without changing careers.

You’ve heard it before – get up and move around. Instead of sitting all day, force yourself to get in the habit of taking frequent breaks. This also goes for those who binge-watch TV. Go ahead and binge-watch but remember to get up and do some stretches. You don’t have to move far away from the TV, and you can get some great stretches in while watching your favorite show.

Insist on Ergonomics in the Workplace

Additionally, always insist on chairs with proper ergonomics. You might not feel the damage from poor seating now, but you will in 20 years. In any case, find a way to switch that chair out for a good ergonomic model with lots of adjustable features.

Not so surprisingly, most employers are happy to comply with healthy chairs for their employees. After all, it is in an employer’s best interest to supply ergonomic seating. For one, because good posture bolsters good health and that means healthier employees. For the other, healthier employees mean better productivity for the business.

That’s a win-win in addition to being high on the list for treatments for bulging discs.

Healing Qualities of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

If you regularly either knowingly or unknowingly carry around high levels of inflammation in your body, you know the adverse effects. Unfortunately, it weakens your bones, joints, and muscles which eventually leads to bulging discs.

Inflammation comes from many factors including smoking and overuse of drugs whether prescription or illicit. Factors that help inflammation include taking steps to lower your stress and getting plenty of sleep.

The best way to heal through diet is to first cut out alcohol, food sprayed with chemicals, refined grains, processed meat, and unhealthy carbs. Then, replace those unhealthy foods with nutrient-rich foods that the body needs to fight inflammation.

Some nutrient-rich foods that help reduce inflammation include the following:

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Cage-free eggs
  • Grass-fed meat
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Fermented foods


Acupuncture uses little needles in specific spots to release the body’s natural flow of energy. Try it once and you’ll soon realize it is not intimidating and it works in most cases. In fact, it’s approved by the FDA for treatments for bulging disc and other types of back pain.

In an analysis of acupuncture on patients with chronic back pain shows a decrease in pain intensity while it improves spinal flexion and quality of life.

Heating Packs

Heating packs are highly effective in treating back pain, but you must wait at least 72 hours after an injury to apply the heat pack. At the time of injury and for 72 hours after, you must apply an icepack instead. Then, use a heating pad on the painful area for about 15 to 20 minutes per day.

Another way to use heat is with a nice, hot bath that includes Epsom salts and some aromatherapy. Some essential oils that are good for relaxing muscles are lavender, sage, and peppermint. So, pour a few drops into your bathtub and soak the pain away.

Essential Oils and Massage Therapy

A good massage has many benefits. First, massages increase the body’s production of calming and painkilling chemicals, such as endorphins. Moreover, massages loosen up tight muscles and increase blood flow while your muscles begin to relax.

Chiropractor for Spinal Adjustments

A chiropractor will perform a diagnosis to determine the type of bulging disc you have and perhaps a few of the underlying causes for it. Next, a chiropractor will perform adjustments to realign your spinal discs. This action is to prevent the disc from protruding into the spine.

Physical Therapy

If it becomes difficult to move around freely or do your normal daily work, it might be time to consider a physical therapist. They know which exercises and stretches work to improve your capabilities. Moreover, they help you improve your flexibility, strength, and range of motion. What’s more, physical therapists are a great source of knowledge for treatments for bulging discs.

Remain Active Throughout Your Life

Again, get up and move around. If you do, you will enjoy less inflammation, fewer injuries, and greater mobility. Additionally, remaining active also allows you to more easily keep the weight off which relieves pressure on the spine. The following is a list of activities that help you maintain flexibility and strength among other benefits:

  • Dancing
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Water exercises in a pool
  • Spine stretching and lengthening exercises

Tip o’ the Hat to Dr. Axe.

Exercises for Bulging Disc

Safe Exercises for Bulging Disc

Please understand that it isn’t the exercise that heals a bulging disc. Rather, it is the resulting benefits of the exercise such as stretching to decrease stress on the disc. At the same time, strengthening the muscles in your legs and back helps keep the spine stable. Safe exercises for bulging disc for you to try at home are listed below:

Knee Bend Stretch

  1. Lie down on your back.
  2. Slowly bring one bent knee up to your chest.
  3. Hold it for a few seconds.
  4. Then, slowly return the bent leg back to its original position.

Leg Across Body Stretch

  1. Lie down on your back.
  2. Straighten your legs.
  3. Move the left leg to the right crossing the body.
  4. At the same time, keep your left shoulder flat to the floor.
  5. Finally, return the left leg slowly.

Spine Curve and Arch Exercise

  1. Get down on all fours.
  2. Curve your spine towards the ceiling.
  3. Arch your spine as high as possible into a “camel” position.
  4. Then, move your spine down as far as possible into a “cat” position.
  5. Repeat and hold for a few seconds with each repetition.

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In conclusion, it’s easy to see how a healthy lifestyle is the first priority to both prevent and heal a bulging disc. In addition, there are many types of successful treatments for bulging discs. However, if you think you might be suffering from a bulging disc, don’t delay in call your medical professionals to get an accurate diagnosis. This will put you on the road to recovery and healthier, pain-free living.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.