How to Treat a Bulging Disk

Bulging disk (or disc), herniated disk, slipped disk or ruptured disk–call it what you want, but they’re all terms for the same thing. They happen when the soft cushion between the vertebrae get pushed out nearer to the spinal canal, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This can cause severe pain in the back, neck, legs or arms.
Give your back a break. If you’ve got a bulging disk, that means no projects around the house, exercise or any strenuous activity for a while. Allow your sore body to rest and recuperate–after some time, it will start to feel better.
Try over-the-counter medications. A simple pain reliever or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is often all it takes to ease the pain of a bulging disk. Look for over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen–like Tylenol, Motrin or Aleve.
See a doctor for prescription medication. Sometimes, the OTC drugs just aren’t strong enough. Your doctor can prescribe some medications to help reduce pain while a herniated disk heals. Muscle relaxers, pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed by your doctor to ease pain, says the AAOS.
Try ice and heat. You can ice a bulging disk with an ice pack for up to 20 minutes per time throughout the day, says the AAOS. This can alleviate pain and reduce swelling and inflammation of the disc. You can also try a heating pad or a warm compress if the muscles aren’t having spasms.
Consider surgery. If these remedies don’t work to treat a bulging disk, your doctor may recommend surgery. The disk may be removed or repaired to treat the condition and stop your pain.