Slipped disc treatment — minimally invasive procedures vs. open spine surgery

The expression “slipped disc” is not an official medical diagnosis. It is a casual term that is more properly called a herniated disc or ruptured disc. Intervertebral discs are shock absorbers located between adjacent bones of the vertebral column of the spine. These discs absorb pressure throughout the day and night as you sit, lay, walk, stretch and lift. With increased age or overuse, a disc will weaken and bulge. Sometimes the outer fibrous ring can tear and the inner, jellylike substance leaks out into the spinal canal. When this occurs, the disc itself may become painful and tender. Inner disc material may also press on nerve roots or the spinal cord. Compressed nerves react in a variety of ways. They may signal pain, give off a pins and needles sensation, cause a numbing feeling or fail to provide communication to muscles, resulting in muscle weakness.

Treatment options

A conservative, nonsurgical treatment of a slipped disc — which includes medication, physical therapy, exercise, etc. — is always the initial approach. If conservative efforts fail, however, surgery may be the only sensible alternative. Historically, surgery has meant very invasive traditional open back surgery, and therefore spine surgery is usually reserved for patients who experience debilitating neck or back pain. In recent years, however, advances in technology have made minimally invasive procedures possible. Minimally invasive surgery is becoming the more popular alternative considering the risks associated with traditional open back surgery. Regardless of your condition, it is important to fully consider the benefits and potential risks of any spine surgery before consenting to an operation.

The decision to undergo a spine procedure is never easy, even if a slipped disc is causing severe pain. That is why it is extremely important to fully understand all of the options before selecting a procedure. In general, there are two different styles of nerve decompression procedures available to patients who experience the lingering effects of a slipped disc:

  • Minimally invasive outpatient procedures — Outpatient procedures are appealing because they can usually be completed without hospitalization and therefore require less recovery time than traditional open spine surgeries. The entire procedure is performed through a small incision, allowing a quick opening and closing of the surgical site. The small incision also prevents scar tissue and muscle cutting. Patients recover at home, and recovery and rehabilitation time§ is minimal.
  • Traditional open spine surgeries — Open spine surgeries have been the traditional choice for patients with slipped disc pain for years. During the operation, the spine is accessed through a large incision in the neck, back, abdomen or throat. The offending slipped disc is removed and replaced with a bone graft and is stabilized with implants. Over time, the vertebrae are expected to fuse together, although occasionally bone grafting fails. If this occurs, a second surgery is usually required. Healing and rehabilitation from a traditional open neck or back procedure can take several months to a year.

Laser Spine Institute

Conservative treatment is usually effective for alleviating neck or back pain from a slipped disc. However, if your pain persists after attempting conservative treatments for a significant amount of time (at least a few weeks), you will need to explore other options. Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn how one of our minimally invasive procedures can help you find meaningful relief from neck and back pain. As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, we already have been able to help more than 75,000 patients regain their quality of life.