Three signs that it’s time to consider torn disc surgery

A torn disc is a relatively common condition that doesn’t always cause symptoms, but they can be very debilitating if they do occur. The shooting pains, cramping and muscle weakness and the pins-and-needles sensations can make it hard to get through a day at work or enjoy time with friends and family. Spine surgery can be an effective treatment for this condition, but it is not for everyone. The following information can help you to work more closely with your doctor to determine if undergoing torn disc surgery is the right decision for you.

Conservative treatments

If you are experiencing discomfort related to a torn disc, surgery probably wouldn’t be the first treatment recommended for you. Instead, you’ll likely be encouraged to start with a course of conservative treatments. Usually, medication is the first-line treatment for addressing torn disc symptoms. Doctors often recommend various drugs to help reduce pain and inflammation, along with physical therapy and lifestyle changes such as improving posture, quitting smoking or losing weight, if applicable.

Additionally, when included in a comprehensive treatment plan, complementary therapies can sometimes be beneficial. For instance, some patients attempt yoga, acupuncture or massage therapy. For many patients, a combination of nonsurgical treatments used over time will be effective enough to eliminate the need for torn disc surgery.

Signs you may need torn disc surgery

Nonsurgical treatments aren’t effective for everyone. Your physician may encourage you to think about torn disc surgery if:

  1. You are experiencing debilitating leg pain from a nerve root being pinched by a torn disc in your lumbar spine and your symptoms have not improved after six to 12 weeks of conservative treatment.
  2. You are experiencing severe back pain associated with a torn disc, the affected disc has significantly collapsed or the surrounding cartilage has worn away, and you have not found adequate relief after a full course of weeks of nonsurgical treatment.
  3. You are experiencing bladder or bowel incontinence and severe leg weakness — while very rare, this is a medical emergency known as cauda equina syndrome, which can be caused by a torn disc in the lower back that is compressing the nerve roots at the end of the spinal cord.

Torn disc surgery options

If you undergo torn disc surgery, your procedure may involve traditional open spine surgery that requires a large incision, overnight hospitalization and a potentially difficult recovery. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine procedures.^ Our outpatient procedures are performed through a less than 1-inch incision, sparing muscles and leading to a lower complication rate compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.

To learn more, contact us today. We can provide you with an MRI review at no cost* to help you determine if you’re a candidate for outpatient torn disc surgery at Laser Spine Institute.