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Bulging Disc Treatment

Experiencing persistent lower back pain? Bulging disc treatment can be the key to regaining your mobility and comfort. A bulging disc occurs when the disc between the vertebrae bones of the spine ruptures or shifts outside of the area it should be in. 

While initial symptoms may be mild, left untreated, a bulging disc can lead to significant pain, numbness, and weakness.

Fortunately, various treatment options exist to address bulging discs. This blog post will guide you through the available treatment options, including surgical and nonsurgical methods.

What is a Bulging Disc?

A bulging disc happens when the disc—a soft tissue sac—between the vertebrae bones of the spine ruptures or moves out of its designated area. Also referred to as a ruptured or slipped disc, this condition can manifest in the neck region but is predominantly found in the lower back, known as the lumbar area.

Initially, a bulging disc might not cause noticeable symptoms due to the absence of nerve contact. However, with a lumbar bulging disc, chronic pain, numbness, and tingling can develop in the buttocks and leg, a condition known as sciatica. A bulged or slipped disc cannot revert to its original position naturally, and over time, as one ages, the disc tissue becomes drier and less flexible, intensifying the painful symptoms.

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Bulging Disk vs Herniated Disc

Bulging discs are frequently mistaken for herniated discs, yet there is a difference. A bulging disc occurs when the internal soft tissue exits the disc, leading the disc to deflate like a tire and bulge outward. However, a herniated disc occurs due to a crack in the disc’s outer cartilage layer, allowing the softer inner cartilage to protrude through the disc. Both conditions can cause discomfort and warrant evaluation and treatment by a healthcare provider.

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Causes of Bulging Disc

Here are the primary causes of bulging discs: 

  • Aging: As people age, discs naturally lose their elasticity and moisture content, making them less flexible and more prone to bulging under pressure.
  • Degeneration: Disc degeneration is a part of the aging process where the wear and tear on spinal discs lead to a reduction in disc height and potential bulging.
  • Physical Strain: Heavy lifting, repetitive movements, and physically demanding occupations can increase the risk of disc bulging due to the added stress on the spine.
  • Poor Posture: Chronic poor posture, especially during activities like sitting for long periods or lifting, can contribute to uneven pressure on the spine and lead to disc issues.
  • Obesity: Excess body weight puts additional stress on the discs, particularly in the lower back, which can accelerate disc degeneration and bulging.
  • Trauma: Accidents or injuries can cause sudden strain or compression on the spine, leading to a disc bulge.
  • Genetics: Some individuals may have a predisposition to disc problems, including bulging discs, due to their genetic makeup.

Symptoms of Bulging Disc

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The symptoms of a bulging disc can vary widely depending on its location in the spine and whether the disc is pressing on nerve roots. While some individuals may experience no symptoms at all, others can face significant discomfort and mobility issues. Here are key symptoms that may indicate the presence of a bulging disc:

Pain

This is the most common symptom, which can range from mild to severe. The pain may be localized to the area of the bulging disc or, if the disc is pressing on a nerve, it can radiate along the nerve pathway. For example, a bulging disc in the lower back may cause pain that radiates down the leg, known as sciatica.

Issues with walking

If the bulging disc is in the lumbar (lower back) region and pressing on nerves that affect leg function, individuals may experience difficulty walking or changes in their gait.

Other disc degeneration issues

As a bulging disc is often a sign of disc degeneration, individuals might also experience symptoms associated with this broader condition, such as stiffness, reduced flexibility in the spine, and pain that worsens with movements like bending or twisting.

Bulging Disc Treatment Options

Bulging discs can often be treated with exercises, physical therapy, and interventional pain management techniques. Sometimes these treatments do not offer enough relief, and patients may require surgery to provide relief from bulging disc pain.

Surgical Options

The following are surgical procedures that can be used to treat bulging discs:

Deuk Laser Disc Repair

Deuk Laser Disc Repair is a type of endoscopic spine surgery conducted in a state-of-the-art outpatient surgery center under sedation, allowing the patient to remain comfortable. This technique does not compromise or weaken the health and integrity of the spine.

With over 15 years of experience performing this procedure and more than 2000 patients treated, there has been a remarkable 99.6% success rate without any complications.

How Deuk Laser Disk Repair Functions

Deuk Laser Disc Repair involves making a very small incision, barely a quarter-inch long. A cylindrical instrument known as a dilator is inserted into this tiny opening to gently separate the muscles, creating a pathway for performing the surgery endoscopically. 

The dilator’s end is inserted into the affected disc via the tear in the annulus where the herniation begins. A retractor tube is placed over the dilator and positioned carefully within the painful disc. The entirety of the Deuk Laser Disc Repair surgery takes place within this narrow tube.

An endoscopic camera is placed into the tubular retractor, enabling the surgeon to accurately direct the laser inside each symptomatic disc. This method ensures that bones and surrounding tissues remain unharmed, unlike traditional spinal fusion, microdiscectomy, and artificial disc procedures.

The Holmium YAG laser, utilized in the Deuk Laser Disc Repair, is precisely controlled with millimeter accuracy under endoscopic view to excise only the painful, inflamed tissue from the disc. The laser specifically targets and removes the damaged disc material responsible for the pain.

After the laser has eliminated the inflamed, painful sections of the annular tear and the herniated nucleus pulposus, the endoscope and tubular retractor are withdrawn, leaving a small incision in the skin, which is sealed with a single stitch and a band-aid.

The complete Deuk Laser Disc Repair surgery lasts about one hour, with the patient spending approximately 45 to 60 minutes in recovery before being discharged to return home. No hospitalization is required, thus avoiding the risks associated with hospital-based surgeries.

Moreover, Deuk Laser Disc Repair maintains normal movement and flexibility of the disc and joint. This endoscopic procedure does not involve fusion, metal implants, or biological materials added to the spine, making it a completely natural process that allows the body to heal the herniated or bulging disc on its own.

Post-surgery, patients of Deuk Laser Disc Repair can return home and quickly resume daily activities without pain, benefitting from a rapid recovery. Notably, there is no need for opioids or strong narcotic painkillers after surgery.

In contrast to open spine surgeries like microdiscectomy, laminectomy, artificial disc replacement, and fusion, which cause considerable internal trauma and severe postoperative pain requiring painkiller use for extended periods, Deuk Laser Disc Repair avoids these issues.

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion surgery can be performed using general or local anesthesia, depending on the situation and surgical requirements.

Spinal fusion can be broken down into three elements which involve:

  • Making an Incision: The surgeon creates an incision to access the vertebrae that are to be fused. The placement of the incision is not necessarily directly over the vertebrae but is determined based on the specific location of the vertebrae and the access needed by the surgeon.
  • Preparing the Bone Graft: A bone graft is essential for fusing the vertebrae. This graft can be obtained from the patient’s hip during the surgery, a cadaver bone, or manufactured beforehand. When using the patient’s bone, the surgeon makes an incision, usually at the pelvis, and removes a small piece of bone from the hip to use as the graft. If a synthetic option is chosen, it is inserted between the vertebrae to form the basis for the graft.
  • Fusing the Vertebrae: The final step involves the permanent fusion of the vertebrae. The surgeon places the bone graft between the vertebrae during the operation. To ensure the bone graft heals properly, medical-grade titanium rods and screws are utilized. The graft then takes 3-6 months to fully fuse the vertebrae into a single, solid bone.

Discectomy

There are two types of discectomy surgery available to patients: an open discectomy or a microdiscectomy. 

The key difference is that an open discectomy involves:

  • A larger incision.
  • The removal of more normal spinal bone and ligaments.
  • Results in more scar tissue and pain than what is typically experienced with a microdiscectomy.

This method increases the potential risk of nerve damage to the adjacent nerves of the vertebrae. Furthermore, the spinal column may become unstable from the removal of bones, ligaments, and facet joints.

 In these situations, a spinal fusion is performed after the discectomy to reestablish stability in the spinal column, slightly lengthening the patient’s recovery time.

Non Surgical Options

For individuals dealing with a bulging disc, non-surgical treatment options can provide significant relief and are often the first line of approach in managing symptoms. These treatments aim to reduce pain, improve function, and promote healing, potentially avoiding the need for surgery. 

Medication

Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. In more severe cases, stronger medications, such as muscle relaxants or prescription-strength anti-inflammatories, may be recommended.

Physical therapy

A tailored physical therapy program can strengthen the muscles around the spine, increase flexibility, and reduce the pressure on the affected disc. Physical therapists may also employ techniques such as traction, massage, and ultrasound to help relieve symptoms.

Epidural Injection

Epidural injection can provide temporary relief by reducing inflammation and pain in the affected area. This option is often considered when other treatments have not provided adequate relief.

More About Bulging Disc

This FAQ offers insights into managing a bulging disc, including recognizing worsening symptoms, deciding on surgery, preparing for it, post-surgery expectations, and understanding success rates.

Signs Bulging Disc is Getting Worse

The following are signs bulging disc is getting worse:

  • Increased pain that becomes more constant and severe
  • Numbness or tingling extending to other parts of the body
  • Weakness in the muscles, potentially leading to difficulty standing or walking
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control (in severe cases, indicating cauda equina syndrome)

When to have back surgery for bulging disc

Surgery might be considered when:

  • Conservative treatments (like physical therapy, medication, and epidural injections) have failed to relieve symptoms
  • Symptoms have persisted for an extended period, typically several months
  • The bulging disc causes significant pain, weakness, or neurological deficits

How to prepare for bulging disc surgery

  • Follow your neck or back surgeon’s instructions regarding medication adjustments and pre-surgery fasting
  • Arrange for help at home post-surgery, as your mobility will be temporarily limited
  • Prepare your home for post-surgery recovery, ensuring necessary items are within easy reach without bending or lifting

What to expect after bulging disc surgery

Here’s what you need to expect after a bulging disc surgery: 

  • Initial recovery typically involves rest and managing pain with medications
  • Physical therapy will be crucial for regaining strength and mobility
  • Depending on the surgery full recovery can vary, with many patients seeing improvement within weeks, but complete healing may take several months. With procedures such as Deuk Laser Disc Repair, recovery takes about 45 to 60 minutes.

Bulging disc surgery success rates

Success rates for bulging disc surgery vary depending on the specific procedure, patient health, and severity of the disc bulge. For surgical procedures such as Deuk Laser Disc Repair, the success rate is 99.6% with 0 complications.

Cure Your Bulging Disc For Good 

Bulging discs can often be treated with exercises, physical therapy, and interventional pain management techniques. Sometimes these treatments do not offer enough relief, and patients may require surgery to provide relief from bulging disc pain. Thankfully, Deuk Spine Institute provides a minimally invasive bulging disc surgery that has an excellent success rate and a fast recovery. 

Deuk Laser Disc Repair uses a small incision and does not cut the bone, which can weaken the spine. Our advanced bulging disc surgery avoids the unpleasant side effects that most traditional spine surgeries incur, and has a 99.6% success rate, with 0 complications, and a very short recovery time.

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About Deuk Spine Institute
World leader in Laser Spine Surgery
With world-class physicians on staff, the newest and most advanced technology, and a patient experience pathway that is unrivaled in it’s efficiency and and pedagogy of care, Deuk Spine Institute has performed thousands of procedures and achieves a 95% success rate in elimination of pain.

 The services we offer are not offered anywhere else in the world, and the treatments are curative, not palliative.  On top of that, Dr. Deukmedjian is personally invested in the well-being of each and every patient, and has spared no expense to guarantee the best possible outcomes.
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