When is surgery necessary for a herniated disc in the back?

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 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 contact the dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute 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 doctor about a conservative treatment plan that fits your lifestyle and your medical needs. Conservative treatment includes any type of treatment that is nonsurgical. The purpose of conservative treatment is to return the spine to its normal position and then strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine so that it doesn’t move out of alignment again. Additionally, the purpose of conservative treatments is to relieve the pain and symptoms associated with a herniated disc.

Many patients find lasting relief from conservative methods of treatment for a herniated disc.
Most conservative therapies can be combined to increase your pain relief. Consult your doctor 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
  • Pain medication
  • Steroid injection
  • Yoga and stretching
  • Low-impact exercises
  • TENS therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Anti-inflammatories

Surgical treatments for a herniated disc

Some patients who suffer from a herniated disc may have to undergo surgery to find treatment if pain relief is not achieved through conservative therapies. If you find yourself considering surgery after several weeks or months of conservative therapy have not treated your herniated disc, you can find comfort that there are several surgical options available to you. You can choose to undergo either 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 two- to five-days in the hospital for postoperative care. During the surgery, the surgeon will make a 6- to 8-inch 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 score^

At Laser Spine Institute, we believe that patients should not feel like there is only one option for treatment of a herniated disc. We also believe that patients should be given a better treatment option than a surgery that requires an extended recovery and a lengthy scar. That is why we offer minimally invasive spine surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine 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 spine 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, one of our board-certified surgeons+ 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 88 percent of our decompression patients report returning to daily activities within three 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 nonsurgical treatment options available to treat your herniated disc, reach out to Laser Spine Institute today. 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. Through a no-cost MRI review* of your spine, we can evaluate your condition to see if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive spine surgery procedures.

Browse Related Resources