Herniated disc diagnosis and treatment
A herniated disc diagnosis may cause some anxiety, but the reality is that many people experience a herniated disc as some point in their lives and successfully manage their symptoms. The natural aging process gradually causes the discs of the spine to deteriorate, often leading to issues including a herniated disc. While it’s impossible to stop the natural effects of age, there are many ways to treat and manage the symptoms of a herniated disc to minimize its impact on your life.
Herniated disc diagnosis
To better understand what a herniated disc is, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the anatomy of the spine. The spine is made up of vertebrae, bone segments that collectively form the spinal column. In between the vertebrae are sponge-like discs that absorb shock for the spine. When a spinal disc breaks or ruptures, the gel-like substance inside (nucleus pulposus) can escape from the disc’s outer wall (annulus fibrosus) and put pressure on the many nerves in and near the spinal column. A disc rupture can occur naturally over time or be caused by disc trauma. Because herniated disc diagnoses vary in terms of how much of the nucleus pulposus has leaked, as well as which part of the spine it’s affecting, treatments also vary. It is important to be properly diagnosed by a physician in order to determine the right method of treatment for your particular case.
To diagnose a herniated disc, your physician will likely start with asking about your symptoms, for example, what pain you feel, where the pain is located and what activities make your pain better or worse. A physical exam usually comes next, where your physician will test your reflexes, nerve function and muscle strength. After the medical history and physical exam, your physician will request an MRI scan or CT scan to get visual confirmation of the herniated disc and compressed nerves in the spine.
Herniated disc treatment
A herniated disc can often be successfully treated with conservative methods that primarily consist of healthy habits. Following a regular exercise regimen often helps individuals find relief from pain associated with a herniated disc, as it strengthens the core muscles that support the spine and helps to shed any extra pounds that might be causing additional strain on the spine. Other conservative methods of treating a herniated disc include:
- Wearing a brace — To restrict painful positions and improve posture
- Quitting smoking — Which weakens the discs
- Getting enough rest — To allow your body to heal naturally, without engaging in prolonged periods of inactivity
- Using hot or cold compresses — Which can help reduce inflammation and numb pain
- Participating in physical therapy — To learn exercises and stretching techniques that will improve spinal strength and flexibility
- Taking medication — Over-the-counter or prescription medications help manage the pain of herniated discs
- Getting epidural steroid injections — To reduce inflammation around nerves being affected by a herniated disc
In addition to these remedies, some individuals find alternative medicine to offer effective treatments for a herniated disc. Chiropractic medicine and acupuncture have been said by some to alleviate pain and improve the alignment of the spine.
In some cases, the above treatment methods are unsuccessful. In those instances, surgery becomes an option. While traditional open back surgery usually requires days of hospitalization, the surgical procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute are all minimally invasive, outpatient procedures. Our procedures can be completed through a small incision, reducing trauma to the body and in turn reducing recovery time ^ compared to traditional neck and back surgery.
If you suffer from a herniated disc and have not found relief with conservative or alternative methods of treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We’ll provide a no-cost MRI review* to help determine if you’re a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery.