How to treat a ruptured disc

A ruptured disc may not always need treatment, as this condition is not necessarily painful. In fact, a large number of people have ruptured discs and don’t even realize it. Symptoms typically develop if the disc itself becomes irritated, or if expelled disc material compresses the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root. To better understand the types of treatments available for a ruptured disc, it can be helpful to look at ways the condition can develop.

Ruptured disc causes

As we grow older, the spinal discs that cushion the vertebrae dry out, turning from flexible to dry and brittle. The outer wall of the disc can then become susceptible to bulging and cracking. If the wall cracks, the inner material of the disc can push out into the spinal canal, resulting in a ruptured disc. If the disc material causes nerve compression, symptoms of pain at the site of impingement — as well as pain, cramping, weakness, numbness and tingling in the limbs — may occur.

Specific ruptured disc treatments

Nonsurgical 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. Always consult your doctor before starting any course of treatment. The following conservative treatments may be initially recommended by your physician upon diagnosis of a ruptured disc:

  • Medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often recommended for treating ruptured disc pain. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin can help minor bouts of pain, as well as reduce inflammation if taken regularly over a period of time.
  • 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 near the site of nerve compression. The anesthetic may help numb the feelings of pain, and the steroid can help reduce inflammation.

When to consider ruptured disc surgery

While they can often be helpful, conservative treatments don’t work for everyone. Surgery can become a serious consideration if you and your doctor have decided conservative treatments have been exhausted without offering relief. However, many people are reluctant to undergo a procedure due to the risks and difficulties associated with traditional open spine surgery. As an alternative, the minimally invasive outpatient procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute are designed to remove ruptured disc material through a small incision. Our orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons use muscle-sparing techniques to perform procedures that help treat neck and back pain. Contact us today for more information.

Our team can help you receive a free receive a review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.