A Complete Guide to Bulging Disc Treatment, Symptoms and Causes

Spine problems, such as bulging disc, form part of the most common health conditions among people. Anyone at any age can suffer from this issue, but older populations and those involved in strenuous physical activity for long periods are more prone to developing it.

It’s essential to fully understand the causes and symptoms of the bulging disc so that you can prevent it from worsening. One of the best treatments you can undergo includes acupuncture. Acupuncture for bulging disc is entirely safe, painless, and efficient, especially when performed by a licensed practitioner who knows how to address the specific issues adequately.

This article will provide you with more information about bulging disc treatments that include acupuncture and other therapies aimed at improving the movement and pain relief.

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Makari Wellness offers a unique alternative treatment for bulging disc that consists of the powerful combination of acupuncture, SFMA/FMS diagnosis, orthopedic dry needling, ART, electro-stimulation, and other forms of natural therapies that relieve pain and provide general well-being while preventing further recurrence of the problem.

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What is a Bulging Disc?

To understand this condition’s nature, it’s vital to know something about your spine’s anatomy.

Namely, your spin consists of vertebrae that have spinal discs in between. These discs act as a shock absorber, preventing any damage to the spinal tissue and bone and allowing a more seamless movement.

Discs are made from a hard casing and liquid-like center. Furthermore, any movement or slipping of the disc from its normal position results in swelling of the fluid material throughout the disc’s weakest point. It’s essential to understand that this process happens over an extended period, and it may worsen if not treated on time.

Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc

Terms bulging disc and herniated disc are often used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be. These are two different conditions that come as a result of different factors, and although they cause similar symptoms, they should be treated differently.

A bulging disc doesn’t always affect the entire disc, but at least a quarter or a half of its circumference. A herniated disc, on the other hand, comes as a result of a crack in the tough outer layer of cartilage that allows the softer inner cartilage to protrude out of the disc. Herniated discs are also known as ruptured or slipped discs, even though the whole disc doesn’t rupture or slip.

A herniated disc often causes pain since it causes the irritation of the nerve roots, which results in the nerve root inflammation. Still, not all the patients with herniated disc experience back problems.

What Causes a Bulging Disc?

A bulging disc is often triggered by a gradual and age-related disc degeneration. As you’re getting older, your spine becomes less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with even a minor twist.

Still, age is not the only factor that causes this issue. Very often, using your back muscles instead of your leg and thigh muscles for lifting heavy things may lead to both bulging and herniated disc, but the following causes may also impact the disc degeneration:

  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Heavy lifting
  • Weakened back muscles
  • Bad posture during sleep, standing, sitting, or exercise
  • Obesity
  • High contact sports and strenuous physical activity
  • The use of improper shoes for certain sports, such as running
  • Activities that stress the spine.

What are Bulging Disc Symptoms?

Bulging discs usually cause no pain since they rarely protrude far enough to press a nerve. However, if not treated on time, this condition may progress in herniation, which triggers a noticeable pain in different body areas. Herniations can happen anywhere on the spine, but they often affect the cervical region (neck) and the lumbar part (low neck).

Still, bulging disc symptoms worsen gradually. You may start to feel mild tingling and numbness, and end up feeling moderate to severe pain, depending on your condition’s stage. Symptoms that require immediate medical assistance are:

  • Pain or tingling in fingers, hands, arms, neck, or shoulders, which may be a sign of bulging disc in neck.
  • Pain in the feet, thighs, lower spine and buttocks may indicate a bulging disc in back.
  • Difficulty walking or impairment when lifting or holding objects.

How is Bulging Disc Diagnosed?

A bulging disc can be diagnosed through a medical examination that often includes X-ray, CT, and MRI scans. Once you’ve been diagnosed with this condition, you should start the adequate treatment to prevent the further progression of the disc damage.

How Do You Treat a Bulging Disc?

The best way to mitigate the symptoms and address the leading causes of bulging disc is to change body positioning and sleeping, sitting, and posture behavior.

A well-thought-out weight-reduction plan with diet and exercise recommendations can be helpful for obese patients, as well as physical therapy aimed at strengthening muscles in the back and regaining the lost mobility.

Alongside the mentioned methods for assessing the condition, we suggest you try some of those provided by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM has been widely used for treating different kinds of degenerative conditions safely and efficiently.

The TCM approaches are unique, holistic, and drug-free, which is why more and more patients decide to try them instead of typical Western medicine techniques. TCM encompasses acupuncture, herbal and nutritional therapies, moxibustion, and other approaches to release the energy and encourage blood circulation, vital for achieving general well-being.

Acupuncture for Bulging Disc

Acupuncture originates from Eastern medicine, and it’s based on the idea that every person has an energy force called the qi (Chee). When the qi is blocked or unbalanced, your body may become less resistant to pain and illnesses, making you more prone to more complex health conditions.

Acupuncturists believe that the balance and energy flow can be reestablished in qi channels (also known as meridians) by stimulating specific points on the body using thin, small, and stainless-steel acupuncture needles.

The stimulation of acupoints near the meridians encourages the blood circulation and energy flow, bringing back the lost balance. That way, a person achieves general well-being and starts to feel improvements in physical and emotional aspects.

The primary use of acupuncture aims at pain relief. Since it triggers the release of endorphins into the bloodstream, it allows the production of your body’s natural painkillers. Therefore, you’ll become more resistant to pain.

So, how can acupuncture help with bulging and herniated disc?

The most prominent advantage of acupuncture is that it stimulates healing by increasing blood flow. That way, it encourages the body to release natural pain relievers that help patients who deal with any kind of condition that causes pain.

Licensed practitioners associate bulging and herniated disc with kidney yin. According to TCM, the kidneys provide core energy that supports every organ and process in the body, and when they lack balance and nurturing elements, they cannot function properly, and neither can your body.

Acupuncture can help resolve kidney yin deficiency and rehabilitate symptoms of bulging and herniated disc. Your practitioner will select the points that need to be stimulated, including those near the ruptured disc. A typical acupuncture session may last for 20 to 40 minutes, and the exact number of therapies will be based on your condition and response to acupuncture.

Electroacupuncture for Bulging and Herniated Disc

Electroacupuncture is another useful treatment often applied to patients with bulging or herniated disc. Unlike traditional acupuncture, where the needles are stimulated manually, electroacupuncture involves the stimulation with a small electric current.

It is incredibly efficient for pain reduction, an increase in range of motion, and improved straight leg lift testing. Using electro-acupuncture for a bulging disc is a highly efficient method for mitigating the symptoms of the condition and preventing potential lumbar disc herniation.

Orthopedic Dry Needling for Herniated Disc

Orthopedic dry needling is another efficient therapy that treats muscular tension and pain caused by nerve irritation, ligament strains, herniated discs, and similar conditions. It involves the use of solid filament needles inserted into muscles in order to release painful trigger points.

This therapy is efficient for treating pain and inconveniences in muscles due to an underlying condition. Unlike acupuncture, dry needling is rooted in Western medicine, and it’s based on the knowledge of the human body’s anatomy that determines the acupoints that should be stimulated.

Dry needling can also reduce the symptoms of the following conditions:

Dry needling delivers the best results when combined with other approaches aimed at reducing pain and reestablishing spine health. Our unique treatment technique starts with the SFMA/FMS diagnostics system and ART (Active Release Techniques) combined with other therapies that help heal your organism and reduce bulging or herniated disc symptoms.

The essence of these two approaches will be explained more in-detail now:

Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) & Functional Movement Systems (FMS)

One single move involves using the entire chain of muscles. When we feel pain, our bodies create compensatory patterns of movement in response to that pain, lack of mobility, or loss of motor control. The longer the changes stay untreated, the more significant dysfunction and more severe pain will result in wear and tear on material structures of the body.

To find a prospective solution, practitioners will diagnose dysfunctional patterns that will help them address pain in the best possible way. Instead of simple muscle testing and checking the range of motion of a single structure, we opt for the SFMA exams, which help us detect fundamental dysfunctions and provide adequate treatment strategy.

Based on the comprehensive SFMA test results, practitioners can use a wide variety of tools to address the problem and prevent further recurrence. These tools often include a combination of needling therapies and corrective exercises for stability and posture.

Active Release Techniques for Bulging and Herniated Discs

Active Release Techniques (ART) is an innovative and highly efficient method for treating pain and injuries. It’s primarily aimed at injured muscles, ligaments, fasciae, tendons, and nerves.

The aspect that distinguishes ART from other massage types is the use of specific tension and depth. It’s often combined with movement therapies that help break up scar tissue to restore function. Professional therapists will also use orthopedic dry needling and electroacupuncture together with ART to deliver a better experience.

Ask Your Practitioner: Bulging Disc FAQs

Here is the list of the most frequently asked questions regarding a bulging disc and its treatment:

In essence, no. However, although it is less likely to cause pain than herniated disc, if not treated on time, a bulging disc can progress into the full-blown hernia, which is a more severe and painful condition.

Severe bulging/herniated disc conditions can lead to permanent nerve damage or even cut off specific nerve impulses. If a bulging disc goes untreated for a long time, you may experience intense pain, irregular bowel movements, or even partial paralysis.

Yes. Manual therapies, acupuncture, electroacupuncture, moxibustion, ART, corticosteroid injections, and specific lifestyle modifications can reduce the signs of disc degeneration and eliminate pain.

Yes. Neck stretches, neck exercises, or simple isometric exercises are excellent ways to get rid of pain and feel much better. You should avoid any high-impact workout, as well as running, jumping, powerlifting, or any activity that involves sharp movement since they may increase your pain and slow down the healing process

You should avoid everyday activities that involve a lot of sitting and bending down – laundry, vacuuming, strenuous exercise, shoveling, gardening, and similar.

If you have mild herniated/bulging disc pain, you can decrease the inflammation by using some at-home remedies. For example, you can apply a heating pad or ice pack to the affected area to relieve pain temporarily or take 10-15 minutes twice a day to lie on your stomach with one or two pillows under the hips. If these remedies don’t help you, you should seek medical assistance.

With adequate treatments, you can expect to get better within a couple of days. Still, it will probably take 4-6 weeks to resolve the problem entirely.