Surgery for a slipped disc — is it always necessary?

Surgery for a slipped disc should only be considered after a wide range of conservative treatments have been tried. Many patients are able to find relief and return to normal activity after a full course of doctor-prescribed therapies. However, if months of treatment are attempted and painful symptoms have not improved, or worsened, surgery will be considered.

If a slipped disc — usually diagnosed as a herniated disc — is taking you away from your family, job and activities, knowing the right time to consider surgery is important. Having knowledge of surgical and nonsurgical treatments can give you a better chance of getting back to the quality of life you deserve.

Trying conservative treatment options

Each physician will have his or her own recommendations for conservative treatments that can help you avoid the need for slipped disc surgery. You should expect some trial and error as your physician attempts different nonsurgical treatments to find out which methods are best for your needs. Common treatments include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Alternating hot and cold therapy
  • Gentle stretching
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which uses electrodes to deliver a gentle electrical current to the area causing pain

Considerations for slipped disc surgery

You and your primary doctor or spine specialist should consider surgery when you both agree that viable conservative treatment has been exhausted. The important thing to keep in mind is that there are different types of surgical procedures. Traditional open back procedures have many downsides including overnight hospitalization, scarring and a long, often painful, rehabilitation period. In contrast, minimally invasive spine procedures are performed in an outpatient setting with a reduced risk of infection and complication.

If you would like to learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery for a slipped disc, contact Laser Spine Institute — your no-cost MRI review* can help us determine if you may be a candidate for our procedures. We specialize in decompressing spinal nerves affected by degenerative spine conditions including slipped discs, bulging discs, bone spurs and spondylolisthesis. Our surgeons are able to access the spine through a less than 1-inch incision, which leads to a shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open back surgery.