Can Physical Therapy Help With A Bulging Spinal Disc?

Having a bulging disc in your spine is undeniably painful and frustrating. With this condition, the cushy tissue that is meant to act as shock-absorbency in your spine bulges outward and affects surrounding nerves. Depending on the location of the extrusion, you may experience pain in your back, legs, neck, and even your arms. While there are surgical options for a bulging or herniated disc, the efficacy of these procedures can vary and back surgery of any level can come along with risks. Depending on your situation, a doctor may recommend that you seek physical therapy for your condition. 

Can physical therapy be helpful for a bulging disc?

Physical therapy can be highly beneficial for people who are suffering from a herniated or bulging disc. This option is often recommended for patients that prefer to skip surgical intervention or who have intermittent problems. The therapy may help: 

  • Reduce issues with radiating pain into the extremities 
  • Reduce pain around the bulging disc in the spine 
  • Enhance the patient's range of motion 

What types of exercises can be done in therapy to help with the issue?

Physical therapy can either be passive or active. Passive therapy involves directly targeted therapeutic treatments such as using heat or electrical pulses to stimulate blood flow to the affected area and relieve tension in the surrounding nerves. Active physical therapy involves performing stretches and light exercises to strengthen the area and deter inflammation that may be causing the problem. For example, light spinal stretching may be done to take pressure off the disc so it reverts back to its normal position. 

Will physical therapy make a bulging disc worse?

Great care should be taken during physical therapy to prevent further exacerbating the condition. The exercises can be exceptionally beneficial, but they should be done under direct supervision. Doing certain exercising and putting too much stress on the area may make your symptoms worse. Before therapy begins, the therapist will do a thorough physical evaluation to prevent the risk of causing any problems. 

What should you do if physical therapy doesn't work for your pain?

In some cases, the extrusion of the disc will be so severe that physical therapy will not help. In these situations, it is best to discuss your options with a spine specialist. As noted earlier, certain surgical procedures may provide some relief. And, if you are dealing with a poor quality of life due to the condition, the risks may be acceptable for you personally. 

For more information on physical therapy, contact a professional near you.