What Are The Best Treatment Options For Your Herniated Disc?

If you've recently experienced a burning, stabbing, or pulsing pain in your back following a sudden exertion or injury, you may be dealing with a herniated disc. This condition can strike at any age and fitness level, but tends to be more common among older adults and those who work in highly physical jobs or who play sports. While a herniated disc can sound (and feel) serious, you may be pleased to learn that you don't necessarily need surgery to heal your spine. Read on to learn more about your treatment options for this condition, ranging from least to most invasive:

Non-Surgical Treatments

In most cases, your orthopedist will want you to start with more conservative non-surgical treatments before jumping straight onto the operating table. However, there are some exceptions--if you're in such pain that you can't sleep, or if you're having increasing weakness in your lower extremities, you may need surgery sooner rather than later to prevent your nerves from sustaining permanent damage.

For the first couple of months after your injury, your orthopedist may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Guided physical therapy, performing exercises, and stretches to minimize spinal compression
  • Chiropractic adjustment to allow the spine to heal
  • Narcotic or over-the-counter pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain and allow you to perform  your daily activities
  • Steroids if the inflammation around your damaged disc is preventing you from sitting or moving comfortably
  • Cortisone injections to provide some lubrication around the disc and relieve pain for a longer period of time (ideal for those who can't take oral pain medication)

Starting with this list and combining certain treatments when necessary can often provide your herniated disc the space it needs to heal itself, eliminating any need for follow-up intervention.

Surgical Treatments

If nonsurgical treatments don't improve your symptoms, or if your disc herniation is severe enough to mandate surgery before you have the opportunity to try these nonsurgical methods, you still have a few options:

  • Decompression surgery to carefully cut away any scar tissue that has formed around the herniated disc and is exacerbating the problem, as well as removal of the bulging disc material itself
    • This usually requires "fusion" of the disc to keep open the space where scar tissue and disc material has been removed. 
  • Laminectomy, to remove the section of the disc that's bulging out and eliminate the pressure and pain on your other vertebra
    • This surgery is similar to decompression surgery but tends to be less invasive, requiring removal of the disc material from the back of your neck.

Either of these options should be able to provide you with longer-term relief. Contact a medical office like Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates for more information and assistance.