Don’t let a bulging disc ruin Valentine’s Day February 8th, 2017 Back Pain Amy Crowell Bulging Disc and Valentine's Day photo by Joe Haupt / CC 2.0 Table of Contents Take your medicineChoose the restaurant wiselyIncrease and maintain your activity levelGet your sleepWatch your dietQuit smokingPut sex on the menuGet epidural steroid injectionsSchedule surgery A bulging disc can be a pain in more ways than one, and if you’re looking forward to a little romance on Valentine’s Day, you may be wondering how to pull it off without ending up in bed—for the wrong reason. Whether you’re already feeling the pain coming on or are simply afraid it’ll hit just as you head out for dinner, a little preparation can help. Take your medicine Many people with a bulging disc get better just by resting and taking over-the-counter medications, while some need prescription meds to lessen the pain and inflammation. If your back doctor has prescribed medication for your bulging disc, be sure to take it as recommended in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day to help control your pain. This isn’t the time to forget your anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxers at home. Choose the restaurant wisely When you’re considering where to go for Valentine’s Day, you may want to think about more than the setting and the menu. How comfortable are the chairs? Having a wood bar jammed into your back or sitting on barstools without a place to comfortably rest your feet while having cocktails may be enough to make you feel crabby instead of cuddly. Increase and maintain your activity level Suffering with back pain can make you want to sit or lay down, but that’s not always the best course of action and can often increase the discomfort from a bulging disc. It’s not always easy to know how active to be, because the pain can be worse when you are active and gets better when you are resting,” said the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). But, “becoming active will help you get better faster.” A back doctor may prescribe exercises to help you stretch and strengthen your muscles. “Begin by stretching,” said the AAFP. “Bend over forward, and then bend to each side. Start these exercises after your back is a little stronger and does not hurt as much. The goal of exercise is to make your back and stomach muscles stronger. This will ease the pressure on your disc and make you hurt less.” Get your sleep Getting proper sleep can make you more sharp, alert, and physically prepared to take on the challenges of the day. It can also help your body regenerate, which is key when there’s chronic back pain involved. “When you nod off, it seems like your body powers down for the night,” said WebMD. “But as you sleep, your body actually repairs and restores itself.” And another important benefit, especially around Valentine’s Day: “Get enough sleep, and you’ll have enough energy to do all kinds of things,” they said. “A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women who slept better also had more sexual desire.” Watch your diet You may be looking forward to a rich, decadent meal for Valentine’s Day, but keep in mind, especially in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, that healing foods and an anti-inflammatory diet can help keep back pain away. Your back doctor may suggest you add foods into your diet including cherries, “powerful antioxidants that work in two ways to tamp down pain,” said Prevention, and salmon, herring, and sardines, “fish low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve back pain.” Quit smoking If you’ve been wanting to quit and just need that final push, consider this: Not only will quitting make you infinitely more kissable, but it can also help keep you pain and injury free. “Smoking increases the risk of a disc injury,” said WebMD, by limiting the oxygen flow to your discs, which can cause them to degenerate. Put sex on the menu On Valentine’s Day, you probably want to end your night with a bang, not a whimper. Thankfully, there are positions that can help you maximize enjoyment while minimizing pain. “Talk about a mood killer: Up to 73% of women with lower-back pain report having less sex as a result of their discomfort,” said Prevention. “Good thing researchers at Waterloo University ID’d the best sex positions to keep the lovin’ alive (no ice packs necessary). A general note for all back-pain sufferers (men included): When you’re controlling the motion, using your knees and hips (rather than your spine) is one of the best sex positions to minimize potential discomfort.” Get epidural steroid injections Epidural steroid injections can be very effective at relieving pain caused by bulging discs. If other methods have not worked, your doctor might recommend this minimally invasive treatment. Epidural steroid injections have become a popular option in chronic back pain management because they are done in minutes, and without without general anesthesia or hospitalization. Schedule surgery Scheduling surgery is probably not the most romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day, but if you’ve been suffering with pain caused by a bulging disc, especially if the condition has progressed to sciatica, it may be necessary. Thankfully, only about 10 percent of those who have a bulging disc turn out to need surgery, but those who do are encouraged to seek out a leading back doctor. If you’re ready to consider minimally invasive surgical treatments for your bulging disc or if you want more information about treatment options, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain.