The news is both good and bad. The bad news is that yes, my bulging disc seems to be aggravated and the condition has not improved the last few years. The good news is that the preliminary tests that he was able to do today indicated to him that the condition is not really bad, just uncomfortable and aggravating to have, and that he doesn't believe that surgery is indicated. He's scheduled me for both an MRI and a CT scan, and will get back to me when the appointments are confirmed for those. Then we'll decide what the next step is based on what those tests show. In the meantime, he suggested that I take an anti-inflammatory, use ice packs on my back as necessary, and gave me a prescription for some very strong pain medication if it starts to get unbearable.
The doctor in question seems to be competent, and knows what he's doing (I should hope so, given his specialty!), so my fears for the moment are assuaged somewhat. In the meantime, just got to get through the periods of pain and all.
For now, I'm going to have a cup of tea and a bit of snack food as my tummy's been rumbling a bit. Then I'm going to put an ice pack on my back, and possibly read for a couple of hours before I have to get ready to make supper.