What should I do if I think I have a ruptured disc?

If you are experiencing shooting pains in your neck or back, with pain, spasms, weakness, numbness and tingling in your arms or legs, you may ask yourself, “What should I do if I think I have a ruptured disc?” The condition occurs when a cartilaginous disc in between the vertebrae of the spine weakens and cracks open. This can cause the inner gel-like disc material to ooze out into the spinal canal. While the condition may not cause pain in every case, symptoms can manifest if the expelled disc material irritates the disc itself or impinges upon the spinal cord or a nerve root.

First steps

There are a number of initial treatments that may relieve your ruptured disc symptoms, but the first step should always be to consult with your physician, who can verify that you have a disc rupture and then determine what treatment options may be helpful for you. Your physician may recommend conservative, or non-surgical, remedies, which could include the following:

  • Rest – A ruptured disc, also known as a torn or herniated disc, can often heal on its own over the course of several weeks or months. Given enough time, the material can shrink back into the space it normally occupies between two vertebrae, which can relieve pressure from the spinal cord or nerve root.
  • Cold and heat therapy – An impinged nerve root can cause irritation and inflammation of the nerve and the surrounding tissues. Typically, the use of ice packs or cold compresses for 20-minute intervals several times a day may numb the area and calm inflammation within the first 48 hours. After a few days, alternating cold therapy with heating pads or warm baths may help relieve muscle tension.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication – Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) may help alleviate pain caused by a ruptured disc and reduce inflammation in the affected area.

If symptoms persist

If pain, weakness, numbness, cramping and tingling caused by a ruptured disc persist even after you’ve tried conservative treatments, you should consider an alternative option. Several minimally invasive procedures are offered at Laser Spine Institute that may help alleviate your symptoms. Our surgeons use state-of-the-art techniques to precisely remove herniated disc tissue and release trapped nerves. Contact Laser Spine Institute today and receive a review of your MRI or CT scan.