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How to Heal a Bulging Disc Naturally

Jan 20, 2022

how-to-heal-a-bulging-disc-naturally
People who have been diagnosed with a bulging disc can experience anything from a mild amount of pain to severe and debilitating symptoms. While this condition can eventually heal or be managed, it can also progress without proper treatment, leading to the need for invasive options like surgery. The good news is that it’s possible to use natural forms of disc herniation treatment that offer relief without resorting to heavy medication and procedures. If you are suffering from a bulging disc, read on to learn about what treatment options you have.

What Is a Bulging Disc?

The spine is not a single bone but a column formed from bones called vertebrae. These are stacked vertically on top of each other. In order to prevent the bone from rubbing together, intervertebral discs sit between each bone. These discs also absorb shock to the spine. Each disc has a tough outer shell and is filled with a gelatinous material.

Over time, the outer layer of this disc can be weakened, allowing the inside to push out and bulge the outer rim of the disc. Picture a balloon that is losing air and can have pouches form on the top or bottom. If the outer layer is weak enough, the inner gel may come out – known as herniation – into the bulge, or even break through and become a free-floating fragment. Ultimately, the herniation will interfere with the surrounding nerves, causing a range of issues. This may include pain, tingling, numbness, or even weakness.

Most often, this occurs as a result of a degenerative disc condition that is a result of aging and wear and tear. However, sudden trauma and mechanical pressure can also trigger the discs to move unnaturally and bulge.

Symptoms of a Bulging Disc

The most common symptom of a bulging disc is neck or back pain and pain in the extremities. When the bulging disc aggravates a nearby nerve, it can cause pain, tingling, and numbness to extend into areas of the body that the particular nerve controls. For example, a bulging disc in your neck may cause pain in your neck, along with pain in your shoulder, arm, and into your fingers. Similarly, a bulging disc in your lower back may cause lower back pain, along with pain in your hip, buttocks, leg, and foot. When the bulging disc puts pressure on nerves in the spinal canal, it can interfere with the healthy functioning of your central nervous system. This is why, in addition to pain, you might also experience tingling, weakness, and numbness, which are common signs and symptoms of an aggravated or damaged nerve.

Common Causes of a Bulging Disc

Once you know your pain is caused by a bulging disc, you might wonder how this happened. Here are common causes of a bulging disc in the neck and back.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis in the spine is one of the most common reasons for a bulging disc. The lower back is the most common part of the spine affected by osteoarthritis. Arthritis causes inflammation and degeneration in your lower back, which can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the area. Damaged spinal discs are not able to absorb stress and strain on the spine as effectively, which can actually aggravate other osteoarthritis symptoms, turning this into a cycle of pain and discomfort.

Wear & Tear

Wear and tear on the body as you age can also lead to a bulging disc. General wear and tear over time will cause the spinal discs to lose some of their elasticity over time. As the gel-like insides of the spinal disc start to dry out, it can make the spinal disc more susceptible to damage and degeneration. The spine is put under a lot of pressure and stress each day, and eventually, that will have an impact on the health and stability of the spinal discs that support your spine. Disc degeneration can cause a bulging disc, which refers to wear and tear on the spinal discs as you age.

Acute Injury

A sudden or acute injury to the spine can also cause a ruptured disc. Car accident injuries or sports injuries can aggravate or injure parts of the spine, causing a disc to lose its shape and bulge outward. An accidental injury like a slip and fall can also disrupt the spine, and that amount of shock and stress to the spine can cause affected spinal discs to wear down quicker than they might with normal wear and tear on the body.

Poor Posture

If you are constantly sitting, standing, and even sleeping with poor posture habits, then you are more susceptible to developing a bulging disc. When your spine doesn’t get the proper support it needs from proper alignment, it can end up putting too much pressure on certain parts of the spine. For example, sitting slouched or hunched forward for long periods of time can put a lot of stress and strain on your neck, which puts more wear and tear on the spinal discs that support the spine in your neck.

Home Treatments for a Bulging Disc

The immediate pain a bulging disc causes can mean you need immediate relief, even before you visit a chiropractor. There are a number of things you can do at home to both reduce symptoms and encourage healing in your spine.

Nutrition

A healthy and balanced diet is essential to keep all parts of your body working properly, including the spine. In addition to things like proper protein intake, you can also focus on other nutritional elements to promote healing of a bulging disc. Ingesting more collagen can help the body repair damaged discs and tissue. Collagen can be found in supplement form or in foods like bone broth.

Exercise

While rest is important, and you may need to spend the first few days mostly lying down, gentle movement is critical for healing. Inactivity can cause stiff joints, weak muscles, and lowered immune responses, which can impact healing. Gentle movement like walking, hiking, swimming, or riding a stationary bike can be helpful.

In order to manage symptoms, you can also use anti-inflammatory pain medication, ice and heat therapy, and massage.

Natural Treatment Methods

While some bulging discs will resolve on their own, it is best to seek professional treatment to ensure it is properly managed and doesn’t return quickly. By working with providers like a physical therapist and chiropractor, you can achieve these results without methods like surgery. Learn more about bulging disc vs. herniated disc.

Physical therapy will include a range of therapies and movements that are designed to strengthen the body and muscles, promote proper movement in the future, and provide exercise routines that can be used at home. This should be combined with chiropractic adjustments that realign the spine and promote healing.

If these conservative methods do not work, other options can include steroid injections to block pain. Only in severe cases where no other relief is found is surgery considered. Surgical options can include complete removal and replacement of the disc, removal of the bulging portion of the disc, or others, depending on the type and severity of your condition.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is an all-natural treatment option to address a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, including a bulging disc. Atlanta chiropractors do not prescribe medications and instead focus on the body’s natural healing abilities and restoring healthy functioning to the body naturally. When you visit a chiropractor for a bulging disc, they will use all-natural techniques like manual spinal adjustments and therapeutic massage to help restore healthy alignment in your spine. The evidence-based practice of chiropractic care and chiropractic adjustments can help restore proper alignment of vertebrae and spinal discs, which will also reduce pressure on nearby nerves.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy also provides natural remedies for bulging discs through therapeutic stretches and exercises. A physical therapist will work with you to manage your pain and other symptoms while also alleviating pressure, stress, and strain on the spine. Physical therapy stretches and exercises help you regain strength in muscles that support your spine so you can practice better posture throughout your day and be able to better distribute your weight and everyday movements on your spine. Doctors recommend physical therapy for low back pain treatment to help you effectively recover and prevent future stress and strain on the back.

Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc

It is important to point out the difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc, both of which can cause similar types of pain and symptoms. The primary difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc is that with a disc herniation, the outer shell of the disc actually cracks or tears and allows part of that gel-like center to escape. The inside of a disc slipping out of its shell is what puts pressure on nearby nerves and causes pain, tingling, and other uncomfortable symptoms. When you visit your doctor for back pain, they may want to use diagnostic imaging tests like a CT scan or MRI to get a better look at the discs in your spine and determine whether your pain is caused by a bulging disc or a herniated disc. It is possible for a bulging disc to develop into a herniated disc, so your doctor will want to monitor your bulging disc while you undergo treatment to ensure you are healing properly.

Stretches to Try for a Bulging Disc

Consider these low-impact stretches to try that can help relieve the pain and discomfort of a bulging disc.

Cobra Pose

Cobra pose is commonly known among yoga enthusiasts, but you don’t have to attend a yoga class to try this stretch. Start by lying on your stomach with your legs together comfortably, your arms bent and palms beneath your shoulders. Then gently press your upper body up and extend your chin up toward the ceiling. The cobra pose will help stretch and elongate your spine, which can help take pressure off of spinal discs and help to redistribute pressure on your spine.

Cat-Cow Pose

Cat-cow pose is another yoga stretch that can help alleviate your pain and discomfort from a bulging disc. Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. As you take a deep breath, arch your back and relax your stomach toward the floor while you look up toward the ceiling. Then exhale and gently round your spine, arching your back in the opposite direction, and drop your chin to your chest.

Knee Hugs

Knee hugs are a low-impact way to stretch out your spine and take the pressure off of a bulging disc. Lie on your back with your legs extended and both heels on the ground. Slowly bring one knee up to your chest and place your hands gently on the knee, like you are hugging your bent knee. Then replace that leg to the ground and pull the opposite knee to your chest.

When to Seek Treatment

If you suspect a bulging disc, visiting a chiropractor is the best course of action to ensure the problem does not worsen. However, if you are unsure whether your back pain warrants medical attention, some signs include:

  • Pain that does not respond to several weeks of home treatment or worsens.
  • Pain that interferes with your daily life

At AICA Orthopedics, our team of specialists will work together to identify the cause of your pain and create custom treatment plans based on your goals. Whether you need chiropractic care, physical therapy, or eventually surgery, AICA Orthopedics has a team that can work with you. Call us today to schedule your first consultation and begin healing your back!

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