Bulging Disc Treatment Overview
Mild to moderate symptoms of a bulging disk—like back pain, shooting leg pain, and numbness and tingling in your leg—can often be treated at home. Typical bulging disk treatments include changing your activities, resting, and taking anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for 1–2 weeks.
To keep from putting pressure on your lower back, you should try not to bend, stoop, or lift anything heavy. A brief period of rest (no more than 1–2 days) may help if symptoms are bad. You can slowly resume activity as symptoms lessen.
Symptoms usually improve a little each day, but it can take about 6–8 weeks to completely go away.
You should see a healthcare provider if you have severe back pain that does not start to get better after a few days of bed rest and NSAIDs. Also see a doctor If your symptoms don't improve after 6–8 weeks.
A doctor might recommend physical therapy, they may order imaging tests, or prescribe steroid medications. This is sometimes given as an injection into the back.
Bulging disc symptoms may be confused with other conditions like low back muscle strain or neurologic conditions. If you are not sure what’s causing your pain, call your doctor. Also see a doctor if you have severe pain that does not improve after 24–48 hours, you develop muscle weakness in your leg or a foot drop (difficulty lifting the front of your foot), or your leg buckles (gives out).
Go to the ER if you also have loss of bowel or bladder control, difficulty walking, or numbness around your inner thighs, which can be a sign of a more serious condition.
Medical tests & labs
If your pain is severe or symptoms aren’t improving, a doctor may recommend imaging tests. X-rays can check for arthritis or other spine issues. They may also want to do an MRI to check the size of a disc bulge and how pinched the nerves are.
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