how a bulging disc is treated

How a Bulging Disc Is Treated (2023 Complete Guide)

A Bulging Disc is an extremely common problem. So common, in fact, that 1 in 10 people will suffer from sciatica at some point in their lives – and the vast majority of those cases are caused by a bulging disc. Today, we’re going to talk about how a bulging disc is treated, the symptoms someone with this problem might get and the ideal treatment to get it better as fast as possible!

How a Bulging Disc is Treated

When we talk about treatment for a bulging disc, we need to split this category into two parts:

  1. Lifestyle
  2. Exercise

Before we go any further, in the following video, I’ll share 8 effective strategies to SPEED UP the recovery of a bulging disc or herniated disc naturally:

How a Bulging Disc is Treated Part #1: Lifestyle


It’s crucial that you optimise your diet for a recovery from a bulging disc.

This involves maximising anti-inflammatory foods: click HERE to learn more about anti-inflammatory foods for a bulging disc.

You’ll also need to minimise pro-inflammatory foods: click HERE to learn about which foods to AVOID when you have a bulging disc.

Image to show how diet can make a big difference to how a bulging disc is treated.

General Activity

Most people do best when they keep generally active. This means not taking too much time off work.

Most people should ideally try to walk as much as they can within the realms of comfort. The best advice is usually to stop when pain starts, have a break, then get back to it.

One of my clients used to leave his house, walk up the road 100 yards, then come back. That was it for each day. But even those few hundred steps made a huge difference over a number of weeks.

Little and often is key – don’t overdo it. Make sure you stop as soon as your pain starts to worsen. Each day, you’ll be able to build your activity level gradually.


Drinking plenty of water is absolutely crucial when treating a bulging disc. When you have a bulging disc compressing a nerve, any dehydration in that disc will make the compression worse.

This means that drinking 3-4 litres of water each day is critical to your success and a highly undervalued facet of recovery.

hydration can help with bulging disc recovery


Getting as much sleep as possible is incredibly important when you have a bulging disc (although, sciatica from a bulging disc can make sleep more difficult unfortunately).

Sleep is one of the key parts of a recovery from a bulging disc – sleep is when healing occurs. It’s impossible to get better without ample sleep each night.

Sleep can help treatment of a bulging disc

One helpful tip to remember is that you can make up for lost hours of sleep as a nap if your pain tends to be worse at night.

A 20-minute nap has been shown to be as effective as two hours of extra sleep in the morning in terms of restoration, some research shows.

Click HERE for a brief guide on sleeping better when you have a bulging disc.

Minimising Discomfort to Speed Up Recovery

Getting better from a bulging disc is just as much about avoiding making the problem worse as it is about doing extra things.

As a general rule of thumb, if an activity or position is making your pain worse, you need to change it or you run the risk of delaying your bulging disc recovery time. 

Products That Can Help a Bulging Disc

For a bulging disc, there are a number of products that can help you go about your day with less pain and more comfort.

Here are a few of my top recommended products for treating this problem:

#1 – TENS Machine

TENS machines are useful for providing relief from pain and muscle spasms in the back and legs. They are a safe and effective way of relieving your symptoms – without any effort on your part.

Below are 3 of my top recommended TENS machines for relief from a bulging disc:

TENSCare Perfect TENS Pain Relief Machine

This TENS machine for sciatica has 8 preset programs so you don’t need to “tune it” yourself – just pick a setting and off you go!

There is an option to purchase a ‘Value Pack’ which includes spare pads which I would definitely recommend.

Click HERE to view the TENSCare Perfect TENS Pain Relief Machine on Amazon US (closest match)

Click HERE to view the TENSCare Perfect TENS Pain Relief Machine on Amazon UK

TPN 200 Plus TENS Machine

A super-simple yet sleek design, this TENS machine is perfect for those who want a highly effective model and are confident with using a TENS machine for bulging disc pain relief.

This unit doesn’t have a fancy display, so you can customize the settings to best suit your needs, tweaking and changing the frequency until you find one that works best for you.

Click HERE to view the TPN 200 Plus TENS Machine on Amazon UK

Click this link here to read about our 10 Best Recommended TENS Machines for Sciatica!

#2 – Lumbar Roll

A lumbar roll is a specially designed cushion that goes behind your lower back when sitting.

It increases the curve in the lower back, which many people find takes pressure off a bulging disc when sitting (which can be the worst position for a lot of people).

Here is a great option for a lumbar roll for the office, car and home:

Click HERE to view the Supportiback® Posture Therapy Lumbar Support Cushion on Amazon

#3 – How to Treat a Bulging Disc with Topical Creams

There are a number of rubs and creams that can help to relieve pain from a bulging disc. In this section of the article, I’m going to share with you which products I believe to be the best creams for bulging disc pain relief.

Always consult your doctor before starting any new medication, including creams.

Best Cream for How to Treat a Bulging Disc – Voltarol 

Click HERE to view Voltarol cream for bulging disc pain relief Amazon US

Click HERE to view Voltarol cream for bulging disc pain relief Amazon UK

This product contains an anti-inflammatory that helps to calm any inflammation around the affected nerve root when someone is suffering from a bulging disc.

What’s more, it also contains a natural product that will help to relax hyper-tense muscles and reduce pain, as well as provide a soothing effect to the area.

For this reason, I would place it as my go-to and best cream for bulging disc pain relief.

Second Best Cream for Treating Bulging Disc – 5Kind Hemp Active Gel

View this product on Amazon here

Hemp-based products have grown in popularity over the last few years. I always keep a close eye on the research regarding hemp and CBD – and the research shows mixed results.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard great things from users of hemp gel as a cream for bulging disc pain relief, and I had one client that used it to relieve back pain to great effect.

The product shown is one of the best on the market right now with over 11,000 ratings and an average of 4.5/5 stars!

Third Best Cream for Treating a Bulging Disc – FourFive CBD Muscle Rub

Click HERE to view this cream for sciatica pain relief on Amazon

I was never convinced by the CBD craze when it all began, but I am starting to see more compelling evidence for its use in some people, in some cases.

While I don’t believe CBD to be “magic”, I do feel this product has potential to relieve some of the muscle pain experienced in the lower back for many people with a bulging disc.

That is why this product makes it onto the list of the best creams for bulging disc pain relief. Check out the reviews of this product – they are outstanding, with a perfect 5-star rating.

What Other Products Can Help in Treatment of a Bulging Disc?

I’m a big believer in the power of improving your general health when it comes to bulging disc treatment and pain relief.

If you’re struggling with your mobility due to a bulging disc, one thing that might help is to address other general health issues like your weight, your diet and your general exercise.

If you’d like some tips on how to improve all of those aspects of your health, stave off injury and treat problems like arthritis, why not grab a copy of my brand new book, Thriving Beyond Fifty?

You can see more details below:

Top Tip: Grab a copy of my #1 Best-Selling book, Thriving Beyond Fifty for more health, wellness and recovery strategies! 

Click HERE to view the book on Amazon UK!

Click HERE to view the book on Amazon US!

How a Bulging Disc is Treated: Exercises

The most important thing to understand when it comes to a bulging disc and exercise is that everyone is different; a suitable exercise regime for one person with a bulging disc will be different for another with the same problem.

However, there are some exercises that are commonly useful for many people with a bulging disc.

Only choose exercises that are non-painful and don’t make your symptoms worse during and after you finish the exercise.

Always go gently at first and build up slowly. Check with your GP before starting any new exercise programme. 

The exercises provided on this page for informational purposes only and are not designed to be a ‘prescription’ of any kind. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before you begin any new exercise programme.

#1 – Cobra Pose

cobra pose to help bulging disc treatment


  • Begin laying face-down on a firm surface like a mat on the floor or a hard mattress
  • Place your hands in line with your shoulders and gently push up, raising your torso off the floor
  • Keep your hips down on the floor
  • Only go as far as is comfortable – no need to get to full extension for a benefit!
  • Gently lower yourself to the starting position and repeat up to a maximum of 10 times.
  • Do a set of these 3-4 times per day

Who this is for:

Usually, people suffering with a bulging disc find this exercise one of the most useful for improving their symptoms. However, regardless of what is causing your sciatica, you should only persist with this exercise if it is comfortable to perform this movement. This exercise is often a good place to start for someone who has trouble bending forward.

Why this exercise works as treatment for a bulging disc:

This bulging disc exercise works because it involves movement of the lower back which encourages blood to flow to the injured area so healing can occur. Some researchers also believe this exercise causes a disc bulge to “centralise” into the disc where it can’t pinch on a nerve root.

#2 – Knee Rolls

knee rolls can help to improve recovery from a bulging disc


  • Lie on your back on a mat or a firm mattress
  • Bend your knees up halfway
  • Slowly and gently, allow both knees to roll over to one side only as far as is comfortable
  • Bring your knees back to the start position, then allow them to roll over to the opposite direction
  • Repeat for 30-seconds total, don’t rush the repititions and try to find a rhythm
  • Try to find time to do this exercise every 2-3 hours if you can

Who this is for:

This bulging disc exercise is great for relieving any tension in tight muscles in the lower back. It is also a great way to begin to regain any lost rotation in the lower back following a bulging disc.

Why this exercise works for treating a bulging disc:

By gently encouraging a slow, controlled rotation of the lower back, the muscles in your lower back will realise that it is OK to relax a little. This will bring about bulging disc pain relief.

#3 – McKenzie Side Bends

wall glide exercise


  • Start standing next to a wall. Most people prefer to do this exercise with their painful leg being the one FURTHEST AWAY from the wall. However, try both sides and see which one is most comfortable for you – stick with that one.
  • Use your elbow and forearm to support yourself so you are leaning on the wall (1st picture)
  • Slowly and gently, let your hips “glide” towards the wall while keeping your feet in the same position.
  • Only go as far as is comfortable, then return to the start position.
  • Repeat this 10 times, have a break, and do 3 sets total.
  • If this exercise has worked for you, you may feel rapid relief in the painful leg and possibly slightly worsening back pain – rest assured this is a normal phenomenon.

Who this is for:

This exercise works really well for bulging disc problems and is a mainstay for a treatment approach called the “McKenzie” method.

If you have pain in one leg only from a disc bulge or prolapse, you could try this exercise.  It brings significant sciatica pain relief to many people and can work rapidly.

Why this exercise works for treating a bulging disc:

The McKenzie approach claims to work by encouraging the disc material called the “nucleus pulposus” to re-centralise into its inner central region. Whether or not this actually occurs hasn’t been proven in scientific literature but I have seen this exercise provide relief for many. Be sure to choose the direction that is least painful when performing this sciatica exercise.

#4 – Standing Extension

herniated disc L5/S1, sciatica exercises for sciatica pain relief sciatica exercises pictures


  • Start standing normally.
  • Gently try to lean back. Only go as far as is comfortable.
  • If you feel able to, use your hands to provide support in the lower back allowing you to extend further (3rd picture)
  • Slowly return to the start position
  • Perform up to 10 repetitions, every few hours or so. Cut your set short as soon as you reach the first signs of pain.

Who this is for:

This is a great exercise for a bulging disc as well. It works especially well for people who have trouble leaning forward and is a more user-friendly/convenient version of #1 on this list. However, I find it to be slightly less effective compared to the Cobra pose as I find people tend to rely more on pelvic rather than spinal movement with this one.

You should AVOID this exercise if you suffer from arthritis of the lower back or spinal stenosis.

Why this exercise works for treatment of a bulging disc:

This exercise works in a similar way to #1 – it involves movement of the lower back, encouraging blood to flow to the injured area so disc healing can occur. This exercise may help a bulging disc to “centralise” into the inner disc where it can’t pinch on a nerve root.

Other Options for How to Treat a Bulging Disc

Very rarely, surgery is required for a bulging disc. This intervention is reserved for those who have tried everything else and are still suffering.

It’s important to exhaust all non-surgical methods first, as you can’t reverse a surgery and the results from surgery are often underwhelming. Occasionally, surgery can make someone worse – which is obviously devastating to hear about.

Another option includes injections, which can give pain relief down the course of the sciatic nerve.  From my experience, these have very underwhelming results for most people. However, they can occasionally be effective for treating a bulging disc.

A more sensible option is to exhaust all conservative methods first – such as following a PROVEN exercise programme for treating bulging discs, like the one below that I proudly recommend:

Are You Looking for RAPID Relief from a Bulging Disc?

My good friend, colleague and fellow international sciatica expert, Dean Volk, has a brand new bulging disc relief video course available – and I’m delighted to be an official sponsor!

Check out Dean Volk’s “Kicking Sciatica OUT of the Butt!” Online Pain Relief Course Here!

I can proudly recommend Dean and his course for bulging disc sufferers – because I’ve seen his incredible results first-hand. You can check out his course (and get lifetime access to the videos and bonus content) by clicking HERE.


Top Tip: Grab a copy of my #1 Best-Selling book, Thriving Beyond Fifty for more health, wellness and recovery strategies! 

Click HERE to view the book on Amazon!

The information on Overcome Sciatica should never be used as a substitute for medical advice from a doctor. Never put into action any tips or techniques from Overcome Sciatica without checking with your doctor first. Please see full terms of use here.


I hope you’ve found this article helpful. I think it’s useful to understand exactly why you’re suffering the way you are right now from a bulging disc, so the symptoms make more sense. I also hope you find some of the exercises in this article useful.

Remember, how a bulging disc is treated is just as much about managing your day in a way that doesn’t make the symptoms worse as it is about doing exercises to fix it.

What did you think of this article? Was it useful? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

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