More than 90 percent of patients affected by symptoms associated with herniated discs find significant relief without resorting to spinal fusion surgery. In fact, a disc herniation, which occurs when the gel-like nucleus of an intervertebral disc extrudes into the spinal canal, might not exhibit symptoms at all. However, when chronic pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness caused by nerve compression from a herniated disc threatens to waylay everyday life, a doctor might present surgery as an option.
Traditionally, herniated discs have been treated with discectomy combined with vertebral fusion, which involves the complete removal of a damaged intervertebral disc, followed by the insertion of a bone graft and plastic or metal instrumentation. Because of the inherent risks of fusion surgery – including infection, bone graft failure and hardware malfunction – doctors are understandably hesitant to recommend it before conservative methods of pain management have been attempted for at least six months.
Conservative Methods of Treatment
These conservative methods include:
- Pain medication – analgesics such as acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen are a good place to start; more severe pain might call for stronger, prescription medicines
- Physical therapy – under the supervision of a licensed therapist, a patient can combat symptoms and learn how to prevent future injury
- Exercise – after receiving proper clearance from a doctor, stretching, weight training and other exercises can be used to strengthen back muscles
- Behavior modification – eliminate activities that exacerbate the symptoms; or, the classic “it-hurts-when-I-do-that; then-don’t-do-that” therapy
- Alternative methods – this includes massage, chiropractic therapy, traction, contour beds and pillows, acupuncture and acupressure
An Advanced Alternative
If chronic pain persists after at least six months of conservative treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how our highly skilled surgeons use gentle, endoscopic technology to treat herniated discs without the need for spinal fusion. Our minimally invasive procedures are performed an on outpatient basis and are an advanced alternative to traditional open back surgery.