Bulged Disc Recovery Time – How Long Does It Take to Heal?

bulged disc recovery time

A bulged disc is a very common issue that affects millions. According to some research, it affects between 1 and 5% of the global population. All people aged 30 and above are at a higher risk but those in the 40s and 50s are at the highest risk. It can occur in younger adults as a result of an injury. If this happens or has happened to you, you will want to know all about bulged disc recovery time. Sadly, there is no simple answer here. We will give you a detailed answer below.

Bulged disc recovery time

In most people, the budged disc condition can heal on its own and there is no need for advanced and severe treatments. The time needed for this varies and once again will depend on the aforementioned factors. However, we can see that in most people the condition will go away between 6 and 12 weeks. Obviously, not a single treatment is used and your body will use its own mechanisms to solve the issue and recover.

It is also possible that bulged disc heals on itself without you knowing about the disorder. You may feel weak pain in the back or leg and it may be present occasionally. This happens when the disc damage is small and less-severe. But, these individuals are at a much higher risk of making the condition more severe and more dangerous.

A general rule is that if you don’t feel better after 12 weeks, your bulged disc is seriously damaged and you may need treatment. A good thing is that there are a lot of treatments for this condition and most of them work. Sadly, each person is different so each patient will need a different treatment to cure himself. Doctors always recommend starting with the simplest methods and moving gradually to the more advanced ones.

Recovery time of bulged disc when different treatments are used

If a person uses a treatment, recovery time will depend on the success rate. Here, we will cover the treatments and also reveal how much time you will need to recover when using each one of the treatments. Let’s start with the simplest and move to the more complex procedures.

Physical therapy for bulged disc

The first thing most patients will try is physical therapy. This involves specific exercises, movements and so much more. The idea is to make your back muscles stronger and to experience pain relief. This is the simplest treatment and it is usually used to help the body repair itself. The recovery time will be around 6-8 weeks. You will notice improvements after the first week.

Physical therapy can help and it is reasonably effective but cannot be used when the bulged disc is severely damaged or the condition lasts for a long period of time. We believe you should try physical therapy and you should use it as prevention so this condition doesn’t affect you again.

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Massage for bulged disc

Massage is very appealing for patients with a bulged disc. It can provide immediate pain relief and there are all sorts of benefits. How fast you can recover will depend on the massage you are using and how frequently you are being massaged. In most situations, a patient will need between 4 and 8 weeks.

It is important to add that there are specific massages for people with bulged disc conditions. These are not generic massages you can find almost anywhere. Those can even be dangerous to people like you and they are far from recommended.

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Medications for bulged disc

The situation with medications is complicated. First of all, you need to know that different drugs are being used for this condition. Some examples include NSAIDs, Analgesics, Muscle relaxants, and Steroids. Depending on the medication you take, recovery time will vary. NSAIDs are most commonly used and they affect bulged disc in two ways. These drugs will decrease the pain and also the inflammation in the spine.

Analgesics (the most commonly used medication of this category is acetaminophen) will decrease the pain only. They do not affect inflammation. Keep in mind that these medications shouldn’t be taken for a long period of time. These can cause liver issues, stomach ulcers, and also kidney issues.

Steroids are taken to relieve pain and decrease swelling alongside inflammation. They are the most effective of all medications mentioned here. Improvements should be noticed within 24 hours since you started taking steroids.

All of these medications are designed to either decrease pain, inflammation, or both. They are the most appealing treatment for patients and something almost all people will start with. The recovery time will be a bit quicker than without treatment so we are looking at 5-10 weeks. Basically, your body will still need plenty of time to recover itself. Medications are there to speed up the process and make it more tolerable.

Injections for bulged disc

Injections are given to patients while using x-ray fluoroscopy. These are a mixture of corticosteroids and also a numbing agent. We must add that they are given directly to the spine, which should be obvious. Almost 50% of patients who get injections will show massive relief almost instantly. Some of them will enjoy that pain relief for a few days while others can enjoy it for a few years. For the latter, multiple injections on a regular basis must be given to patients.

Recovery with this treatment varies significantly and it is based on the condition itself, the number of injections, and how effective they are for a particular person. Your recovery time can vary from almost instant (you will eliminate the symptoms but the condition will remain for a few weeks) up to 5-6 weeks.

Surgery for bulged disc

First and foremost you need to know when the surgery is needed. It is used for people with the bulged disc but not as often as you may think. A doctor will try other treatments mentioned here first and if they are successful, there is no need for surgery.

If you have been using other treatments and the relief isn’t present after 12 weeks and you have symptoms known as a red flag, you may need surgery! These are more severe symptoms and they include:

  • Bowel or bladder issues
  • Saddle region numbness
  • Severe leg strengths loss

There are a few options in this case scenario. The first one is a more advanced and more complicated surgery called Microsurgical discectomy. During this procedure, a surgeon will open the spine by making 1-2 inches cut above the targeted area. He will move back muscles to one side and expose the vertebrae. From there, he will remove a small portion of the affected bone. Then, the bulged disc itself is decreased in size by removing some of the material (surgeon will use special medical instruments for this). Almost 85% of the patients will report successful surgery and significant improvements. The recovery time is 6 weeks but can be up to a few months if there are complications.

Laser spine surgery

The second option is laser spine surgery and it is a more modern procedure. In a nutshell, doctors will use local anesthesia and laser to do the same process. But, there is no need to open the spine and cut back muscles. As such, the bulged disc recovery time is much shorter. Most patients will be on their feet within 6 weeks while most can walk and move after 24 hours.

Keep in mind that all of the recovery times for all the procedures above are a bit generic. The real recovery time will depend on the factors we have mentioned earlier and on a patient. Some people can recover within days while others will need months, regardless of the treatment used. But, these are the most accurate times we are able to share with you!


How can you speed up the recovery of for bulged disc ?

Luckily there are a few methods you can use to speed up the recovery. As you shall see, these are simple techniques that are very useful and effective. Besides the fact they will help you with recovery, some can also help you by decreasing the risk of getting a bulged disc again.

1. Rest

The first time is to rest for a few days or even a few weeks after the condition is diagnosed and treatment is used. By doing this, you won’t be at risk of inuring the affected disc even more and recovery will be sped up.

2. Avoid stress

Although sounds strange, stress does affect bulged disc. Avoiding stress can speed up the recovery. When we are stressed, we produce cortisol hormone which makes healing slower. (more here)

3. Proper posture and lifting

This is a method you can use later in the recovery process. It makes it impossible for you to hurt the disc again and therefore directly has a positive effect on the recovery time. After all, most people must work a few weeks after they are diagnosed with the condition.

4. Proper diet

Proper diet can help you with recovery as well. It will speed up the recovery by decreasing inflammation and provide essential nutrients that will make healing faster and more effective. (more here)

Factors that affect recovery time of bulged disc

Factors that will determine the recovery time are multiple. The first one is the cause of the condition. In a nutshell, the causes are obvious and they can easily be linked to the condition in question. For example, if the aging process is the main cause, you will need more time to recover. If weak back muscles cause the condition, the recovery time will be significantly shorter.

When it comes to injuries, there are many different examples and the recovery time will be based on the severity of the injury. If your intervertebral disc is severely damaged, you may need up to a few months to heal. If it is severely damaged, it can become herniated disc as well, which will require even more time to recover.

Another factor is age. Younger people will recover in less time and will be back on their feet sooner. Seniors will need more time and more advanced treatments.


Bulged disc recovery time is a complicated matter to explain. There are a lot of variables and a lot of factors. In essence, if you do not notice improvements between 6 and 12 weeks, you need a treatment that will require additional time to help you. That time will depend on the treatment and can go anywhere between 1 week and 6 months.

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