Nonsurgical and Surgical Treatment For a Bulging Disc

what is a buldging disc

When you are diagnosed with a bulging disc in your neck or back, your doctor will explain the treatment options available to you. There are a variety of conservative, nonsurgical treatment methods that are recommended to be tried first. These consist of physical therapy, hot/cold treatment, epidural spinal injections, pain and anti-inflammatory medications, gentle stretching, low-impact exercise, and others. Some patients even choose to add certain alternative therapies to their prescribed treatment regimen, such as acupuncture, acupressure, biofeedback, or massage.

If these conservative treatments have been tried over the course of several weeks or months with little or no improvement, you may want to consider surgery as an option. Typically, only about five or ten percent of people with non-life threatening back problems will be candidates for surgery, and it is used as an elected last resort to relieve symptoms when conservative treatments don’t seem to work. Spine surgeries can be effective, but they also come with some risks that you should talk to your doctor about. Also, do some home research about the differences between traditional open back surgery and endoscopic surgery, and learn about the risks, recovery times, and success rates of each surgical method. You should also consider getting more than one opinion regarding the option of surgery, as different spine specialists may be able to recommend different courses of conservative treatment that could preclude the need for surgery altogether.

Traditional Open Back Surgical Methods for Bulging Discs

Traditional open back surgeries require highly invasive techniques to treat bulging discs. Large incisions are made to expose the spinal column in order to allow for access to and treatment of the bulging disc. Open back surgeries can vary from removing small amounts of discs, to removing entire discs and fusing two or more vertebral bodies together, to even removing entire vertebral bodies. The implantation of bone grafts and stabilizing hardware will likely be required, which may present the risk of further complications. Your doctor or a spine surgeon will be able to explain the surgical procedure they recommend to treat your bulging disc. Make sure to ask the doctor about any risks involved with the surgery, as well as the projected recovery time.

Endoscopic Surgery

A newer alternative to open back surgery is endoscopic surgery. For bulging discs, this minimally invasive, outpatient approach targets the exact spot along the spine where the disc is bulging to get right to the source of the problem. An incision of less than an inch in diameter is made into the back or neck, and a scope, laser, and other medical instruments are threaded into the incision to treat the bulging disc. Pieces of the disc may be vaporized and removed in order to restore the disc to a non-bulging state. Typically, this type of procedure involves fewer risks and offers patients a much fast recovery time than that which follows an open spine operation. Research these types of procedures and get multiple medical opinions to see if you could be a candidate for endoscopic surgery.


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