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Treatments for a Bulging Disc

author image Steve Silverman
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.
Treatments for a Bulging Disc
Treatments for a Bulging Disc Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

A bulging disc is a painful condition in the back that can result in loss of function in the foot or leg and additional pain in the leg. The condition is usually the result of an automobile accident or a contact sports injury but not always. The bulging disc can be known by several names--herniated disc, pinch nerve or slipped disc--and there are several forms of treatment

Rest and Over-the-Counter Medicine

The most basic way to treat a herniated disc is to treat it with rest. If you play basketball, take time off and limit your time on your feet as much as possible. Do not push yourself and give yourself as much time off as possible. Take an over-the-counter pain medication like aspirin or Tylenol to help contend with the pain. In some cases, this kind of rest will help the disc heal on its own

Physical Therapy

You may have rested your back for a week or more with no discernible change. A trip to your physician is called for and he may examine your back for obvious deformities or problems. A bulging disc is not likely to reveal itself that way. He will recommend physical therapy for your condition. Licensed physical therapists will ask you to perform several stretches and exercises and will record where you have felt pain. The physical therapist will offer several exercises and stretches--most involving a Thera-Band and an exercise ball--for treatment. These exercises, coupled with a session-ending therapeutic massage, may bring relief.

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Epidural Injection

If the physical therapy has not helped or does not bring any lasting relief, the physician will likely send you for an MRI to get a look at the area and what is causing the pain. If the MRI shows a herniated or bulging disc, the next form of treatment to eliminate the pain you are feeling is an epidural injection of steroids. Prior to the injection, you are given a small injection containing an anesthetic and then the longer needle is injected around the dura, the sac around the nerve roots. This is the ideal spot for this injection. In many cases, this will bring relief within 24-to-48 hours.


In some cases, no treatment will work. Despite rest, physical therapy and epidural injections, the pain will remain. There may also be additional symptoms, including loss of function in the foot or leg and additional pain along one leg or the other. In these cases, disc surgery is recommended to repair the herniation. The surgeon can repair the remove the herniated portion of the disc through a tubular device called an endoscope. If this surgery is performed, it is done on an outpatient basis and the patient can go home that day.


Once endoscopic surgery has been performed, the patient should be able to function without pain. Physical therapy may also be prescribed. The key is to strengthen the area of the herniation to prevent future problems. Physical therapy involving the Thera-Band and exercise ball present the best options since they do not involve heavy weight lifting.

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