I have a herniated disc in my back — will I need surgery?

If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc, you may be considering the type of treatment options available to you. Many patients worry that surgery might be the only option to alleviate the chronic pain and symptoms they are experiencing. However, the standard process of treatment for a herniated disc begins with conservative treatment, such as physical therapy, and then slowly progresses into a surgical treatment if needed. While there are always exceptions to the rule, most mildly herniated discs can be effectively treated with conservative therapies.

We encourage you to take a moment to research all of the treatment options available to you for your herniated disc. Many patients are able to effectively treat the symptoms associated with a herniated disc without having to undergo surgery. If you have any questions as you research, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Care Team for answers. We are here to help guide you to the best treatment option for your needs.

Conservative treatments for a herniated disc

Typically, the first step to treating your herniated disc is to consult your physician about a conservative treatment plan that fits your lifestyle and your medical needs. Conservative treatment includes any type of treatment that is not surgical, and ranges from pain medication to physical therapy. The purpose of conservative treatment is to position the spine back to the normal position and then strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine so that the spine does not move out of alignment again. Additionally, the purpose of conservative treatments such as pain medication and injections is to relieve the pain and symptoms associated with a herniated disc.

Most conservative therapies can be combined to increase your pain relief. Consult your physician before beginning or combining any treatments for your neck or back pain to reduce the risk of worsening your condition. The most common forms of conservative treatment include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Medication
  • Steroid injection
  • Yoga and stretching
  • Exercises
  • TENs therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Lifestyle changes

Many patients find lasting relief from conservative methods of treatment for a herniated disc.

Surgical treatments for a herniated disc

Some patients who suffer from a herniated disc may have to undergo surgery to find treatment, if lasting pain relief is not achieved through conservative therapies.

If you find yourself considering surgery after months of conservative therapy has not treated your herniated disc, you can find comfort that there are several surgical options available to you. You can choose to undergo traditional open back surgery or minimally invasive spine surgery.

Traditional open back surgery is a standard back operation that takes place in a hospital setting and requires patients to stay 2 – 5 days in the hospital for postoperative care. During the surgery, the surgeon will make a large incision in the neck or back to access the spine. The muscles surrounding the spine are cut and torn in the incision process, leading to a longer recovery time. Once the spine is accessed, the surgeon will either remove part of the herniated disc or the entire herniated disc, depending on the severity of the condition. If the entire disc is removed, you will need a fusion to stabilize your spine. The surgeon will insert a small implant into the empty disc space to help support and stabilize your spine.

The standard recovery time for a traditional open back surgery is three to six months, though some patients require a year to return to daily activities. After the surgery, patients are left with a sizeable scar from the large incision.

For many patients, traditional open back surgery is a “last resort” option due to the additional risks and expenses associated with the surgery and extended hospitalization after surgery.

Advantages of Laser Spine Institute's minimally invasive spine surgery:

  • No lengthy recovery^
  • Patient satisfaction score of 96^
  • Board-certified surgeons+
  • Less than 1-inch incision
  • Outpatient procedure
  • 97 out of 100 patient recommendation rate^

At Laser Spine Institute, we believe that patients should not feel like there is only one option for treatment for a herniated disc. We also believe that patients should be given a better option for treatment than a surgery that requires an extended recovery and a lengthy scar. That is why we offer minimally invasive spine surgery, a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^

Our surgery begins with a small incision, about 1-inch in length, in the neck or spine. Because our procedure is minimally invasive, the muscles surrounding the spine are not disrupted. This allows our patients to experience a shorter recovery time^ than patients who undergo traditional open back surgery.

If a patient is undergoing a minimally invasive decompression surgery, the surgeon will remove a small portion of the herniated disc to decompress the nerve and relieve the patient’s pain and symptoms. However, if a patient has a herniated disc that is severely diseased, the surgeon might have to remove the entire disc and replace it with an implant to stabilize the spine. This is called a minimally invasive stabilization surgery.

The type of minimally invasive surgery that will best treat your condition will be recommended to you after a surgeon reviews your MRI report and medical history. We understand that getting back to your life is important, and more than 88 percent of our patients report returning to daily activities within 3 months of surgery. Our minimally invasive procedures are performed as outpatient procedures, which means that our patients are able to return to their home or hotel in the company of a Care Partner the same day as the surgery was performed.

For more information about the surgical and non-surgical treatment options available to you to treat your herniated disc, please contact our Care Team. We are here to help you understand your herniated disc condition and the treatment options available to you so you can make an informed decision about your spine care needs.

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