Herniated disc treatments are intended to manage the symptoms associated with nerve irritation and/or compression that arise when extruded intervertebral disc material comes into contact with nerve endings in the disc wall, an adjacent nerve root or the spinal cord. There is no actual cure for a herniated disc, but the body usually responds to the condition by absorbing the extruded material through a process known as resorption. Resorption takes time, during which potentially debilitating pain, numbness, tingling or muscle weakness normally can be managed by following a conservative treatment plan formulated with help from your physician. In rare cases, however, discomfort caused by a herniated disc never subsides and more aggressive treatment is necessary.
Conservative herniated disc treatments
Once a herniated disc diagnosis is confirmed, a physician will help develop a plan consisting of various herniated disc treatments that are based on the severity, location and duration of the symptoms, as well as the overall health of the patient. The treatment plan might include one or more of the following:
- Over-the-counter or prescription pain medication – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and analgesics can control the pain until nerve inflammation subsides and resorption is complete.
- Physical therapy, exercise, stretching – Under the guidance of a trained therapist, patients develop an exercise regimen geared toward strengthening the neck and back, elongating the spine and preventing future injury.
- Alternative medicine – Some people have found success using chiropractic therapy, acupuncture and other treatments considered outside the medical mainstream.
Other herniated disc treatments
A physician might also order a series of corticosteroid injections in the spine to alleviate pain at the source. If conservative treatment fails to provide relief after several weeks or months, surgery might become an option. Open back surgery should not be taken lightly, because it involves overnight hospitalization, large incisions, removal of a significant portion of the spinal anatomy, insertion of stabilizing implants and a lengthy recuperation. Another option is minimally invasive surgery, performed using the same type of technology that has greatly simplified arthroscopic knee surgery over the past few decades. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about our minimally invasive procedures and for a review of your MRI or CT scan.