What Is the Treatment for a Protruding Disc?

C. Webb

Treatment for a protruding disc, also called a bulging disc, depends on the severity of injury, the length of time it has protruded, and the general overall health of the patient. Conservative treatments are typically attempted before surgery is recommended. Rest, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications are usually the first line of defense in treating this condition.

Physical therapy may be helpful for someone suffering with a protruding disc.
Physical therapy may be helpful for someone suffering with a protruding disc.

The spinal or lumbar system has a specific number of vertebrae pairs. Each pair is protected and cushioned by a disc, which acts as a shock absorber. Damage to the disc typically occurs over time and is caused by poor posture, injury, or muscle weakness. Any of these conditions can lead to the disc protruding out from between the vertebrae.

A protruding disc may be caused by poor posture.
A protruding disc may be caused by poor posture.

Symptoms include pain that at times can be severe, numbness down one leg, loss of bladder control, and in extreme cases, paralysis. Diagnosis is made through a medical examination, symptom history, and imaging tests. Once the diagnosis is made, treatment can begin.

Symptoms of a protruding disc may include numbness down one leg.
Symptoms of a protruding disc may include numbness down one leg.

Initial treatment for a protruding disc is rest, with a gradual return to normal physical activities. The patient is told to remain in bed until the majority of pain subsides. Anti-inflammatory medication is typically prescribed during this time.

Anti-inflammatory medications may help treat a protruding disc.
Anti-inflammatory medications may help treat a protruding disc.

After the initial pain and inflammation subside, the patient is advised to begin mild physical activity and gradually increase its frequency until normal activities are resumed. Sitting for long periods should be avoided because it increases the pressure on the lumbar system. Many cases of protruding disc are corrected using this conservative treatment method.

For cases in which rest and anti-inflammatory medications do not work, muscle relaxers and narcotic pain medication are used. Patients often report relief when taking prescribed medications in conjunction with light physical therapy and rest. If these measures do not work, surgery is considered.

There are several surgical options for the treatment of a protruding disc. Some of them are noninvasive and done on an outpatient basis. Others are quite involved and require several weeks for recovery. Patients should discuss all surgical options with the surgeon before committing to any surgical treatment.

Noninvasive surgery procedures for the treatment of a protruding disc are typically done in an outpatient setting, and the patient is encouraged to take a long walk the same day. The patient usually heals quickly and returns to normal activities within a day or two of the procedure. Traditional surgery requires several days in the hospital and a long recovery period that includes physical therapy sessions over several months.

Ice packs may help alleviate pain associated with a protruding disc.
Ice packs may help alleviate pain associated with a protruding disc.

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Discussion Comments


Is a protruding disc the same thing as a herniated disc? Many years ago after a car accident I was told I had a herniated disc, and I have had backaches and pain off and on since then.

I usually just take some anti-inflammatory medication to help ease the pain. My back is starting to bother me more though, and I am wondering if I might have a bulging disc.


I put up with protruding disc symptoms for years before I finally decided to have disc surgery. I had heard that back surgery didn't have that great of a success rate. I was afraid I would go through the surgery and recovery and not feel any better, or even worse.

I got to the point where I was tired of dealing with the pain though, and decided to go ahead with the surgery. I do feel so much better now, and feel like I can do a lot more things without knowing I will be in pain the next day.

Every person has a different situation, and if someone is thinking about surgery, it really is a big decision that you have to feel comfortable with.


I have always had poor posture and now I am paying the consequences for it. My job also requires me to sit in an office chair in front of a computer all day long, and this doesn't help my disc pain.

Sometimes when my back is really hurting me, I have to take a day or two off work and just let my back rest. I think once you have a bulging disc, you have to be really careful that you don't aggravate the condition and make it worse.


I have seen a chiropractor for several years because of lumbar disc pain. If I am careful about the way I move around, this usually takes care of my pain.

There are times when I overdo it though, or do something that causes severe pain. I have at least one bulging disc so know that I will always have to be very conscious about the way I bend or lift things.

I am really hoping to avoid surgery, so try to keep this under control between chiropractic visits and mediation when needed. When I see people jump down from something or lift something heavy, I just cringe because I know what that would make my back feel like if I tried to do those things.

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