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Can a Bulging Disc Fully Heal?


A "bulging disc" isn't fully herniated, although it may eventually reach that point. It can still significantly affect nearby nerves in a similar way. The good news is the discomfort associated with this type of disc-related damage doesn't necessarily last forever. In fact, the protruding disc itself may subside or heal itself under the right conditions. Take a moment to learn more about what to expect from a bulging disc over time.

What Is a Bulging Disc? 

bulging disc can develop as inner disc material shifts enough to cause an affected disc to protrude excessively on one side of the vertebral body and into the spinal canal without the inner disc material actually breaking through the outer shell. You may have a bulging disc for a while without knowing it until the protrusion becomes great enough to irritate a nearby nerve. Possible causes and contributing factors include:

• Age-related disc wear
• Poor posture
• Sudden trauma
• Heavy lifting without using proper techniques
• Spinal instability for other reasons

Can Protruding Discs Change Over Time?

Spinal discs aren't excessively rigid, since they're meant to cushion spinal bones. Therefore, it's possible for disc material to shift back in a way that relieves pressure on nearby nerves. Even if this isn't the case, over time, the affected disc may shift enough to entirely eliminate related discomfort or noticeably decrease symptoms. The body may also heal herniated discs in a similar fashion. With bulging discs, it's not unusual for image tests performed after several months of treatment to show no disc bulge. Even if this isn't the case, there may be significant reduction in the protrusion and thus the associated pain.

Treating & Managing Bulging Disc Discomfort

It's rare to need immediate surgery for a bulging spinal disc. However, early treatment is important when it comes to managing your discomfort. If the issue is treated as soon as you notice disruptive symptoms, a customized physical therapy plan may be all you need. Treatments that could ease protruding disc material away from nerve roots or back into the disc include:

• Massage therapy
• Chiropractic adjustments
• Nonsurgical decompression

It can take time for a bulging spinal disc to shift or heal on its own. For this reason, it's understandable to be more concerned about dealing with your immediate discomfort, especially if it's affecting your daily routine and quality of life. Unless symptoms are severe enough to make surgery worth considering, discomfort from a bulging disc is often manageable with efforts involving:

• Medication to minimize inflammation
• Injections in the affected area to improve results from physical therapy
• Postural exercises to ease pressure on the affected disc
• Exercises that strengthen spine-supporting muscles and ease stress on the spine and its discs

Preventing Bulging Discs

Not all spinal disc problems are entirely preventable, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of developing bulging or herniated discs. Avoiding long periods of sitting, eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods, getting regular exercise, doing routine posture checks, and learning proper lifting techniques are among the disc-friendly steps you can take to work toward this goal.

A bulging disc can burst to become a herniated disc. If you have a herniated disc that isn't responding to conservative treatment, a
back surgery procedure called a discectomy may be the best option. Although this is generally a very successful procedure, having a large hole in the outer ring of the disc more than doubles the risk of needing another operation. A new treatment, Barricaid, is a bone-anchored device that closes this hole, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients didn’t undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and doesn’t require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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