How to treat a ruptured disc

A ruptured disc may not always need treatment, as many occurrences never cause pain. Plenty of people live with the condition and don’t even realize it. Symptoms typically develop if the disc itself becomes irritated, or if expelled disc material compresses, or impinges upon, the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root. To understand the types of treatments available for a ruptured disc, we must first look at ways the condition can develop.

Causes

As we grow older, the discs of cartilage in our spines dehydrate, turning from spongy and pliable to dry and brittle. The outer wall of the disc, known as the annulus fibrosus, can then become susceptible to bulging and cracking. If the wall cracks, the inner jelly-like material of the disc (nucleus pulposus) may seep out into the spinal canal, a condition known as a ruptured disc. This condition is also frequently called a herniated or torn disc. If the disc material impinges upon the spinal cord or nerve root, symptoms of pain at the site of impingement — as well as pain, cramping, weakness, numbness and tingling in the limbs — may occur.

Treatments

Non-surgical and surgical treatments for a ruptured disc can vary depending on the location of the disc in the spine, how severe your pain is, and whether or not you have any existing health conditions. It is best to always consult your physician before starting any course of treatment. The following conservative (non-surgical) treatments may be initially recommended by your physician:

  • Medication – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often the first line of defense in treating herniated disc pain. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin can help alleviate initial pain, as well as reduce inflammation if taken regularly over a period of time. Other pain medications or muscle relaxants also might be prescribed.
  • Physical therapy – A physical therapist can teach you proper body mechanics, helping to correct poor posture and other activities that might be causing your neck or back pain. A ruptured disc might also benefit from the light aerobic and stretching exercises included in physical therapy.
  • Epidural steroid injections – A mixture of steroid and anesthetic medications are injected directly on or near the impinged nerve. The anesthetic may help numb the feelings of pain, and the steroid can help reduce inflammation.

An alternative

Symptoms from a ruptured disc may not dissipate with conservative treatments. The minimally invasive outpatient procedures offered at Laser Spine Institute are designed to precisely remove ruptured disc material through a small incision. Our orthopedic surgeons use state-of-the-art techniques to perform procedures that help treat neck and back pain. Contact us today for more information and to receive a review of your MRI or CT scan.