What are the treatments for bulging disc?

Updated November 21, 2016

A bulging disc in your back can cause problems ranging from temporary, inconvenient pain to incontinence and even the inability to walk. The treatments for a bulging disc range from mild to advanced, depending on the severity of the problems that the bulging disc causes.

The Facts

The vertebrae in your back are separated by intervertebral discs. These discs are flat and round and act as cushions and shock absorbers for your spine. When one of these discs ruptures or slips out of place, it is called a herniated or a bulging disc. A bulging disc can lead to health problems like restricted motion in your back, pain, sciatica and even loss of muscular control. Treatments for a bulging disc range from letting it heal on its own, to surgery.

Rest and Time

If you are like many people, your bulging disc might not need any treatment aside from rest and giving it time to heal. In patients experiencing sciatica caused by a herniated disc, a majority recover with no medical intervention at all. Doctors who recommend resting the back as a first option for treatment suggest avoiding strenuous activity, including bending and lifting heavy weights.


If rest is not helping you recover from the bulging disc in your back, your next treatment option could be medication. Over the counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen can relieve the pain caused by the disc. If they are not strong enough, your doctor can treat your pain with injections of steroid medication that reduce inflammation in your back.


If rest, time and medication have been ineffective in treating your bulging disc, then surgery is an option. In surgical treatment for a herniated disk, a doctor locates the bulging disc that is causing the problems. She then removes a small part of the disk, stopping it from putting pressure on nerves or other parts of your body. Surgery is an especially effective treatment option if the main symptom of your bulging disc is pain in your legs.


Physiotherapy is a treatment for a bulging disk that is often combined with other treatment options. Your doctor can recommend a list of exercises that will strengthen the muscles in your back without putting pressure on the herniated disk. These exercises will help take strain off the bulging disk and help prevent it from occurring again. Physiotherapy can be performed after a period of rest, while you take medication or as you recover from surgery.

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