Will a herniated disc become worse without treatment?

A herniated disc can be very painful. This condition occurs when a spinal disc develops a small tear in its exterior border, allowing some of its soft inner core to leak out into the spinal canal. If herniated disc material comes in contact with a nerve or nerve root — or the spinal cord itself — the irritated nerve can cause symptoms such as localized pain, muscle weakness and pins-and-needles sensations that travel along its path.

For some people, certain body positions and movements make these symptoms worse. Even relatively simple activities, such as walking, can increase the pain. Bending or twisting the spine, lifting heavy items and sitting down also tend to make herniated disc symptoms flare up. Resting, on the other hand, can make the discomfort less pronounced, as can managing it through various forms of treatment.

Conservative therapies for a herniated disc

The best approach to herniated disc treatment is to get started as soon as possible. Because there may be many different options to try, and not all treatments are equally effective for all patients, it can take a few weeks to find an optimal combination. Making a prompt appointment with an experienced physician is typically advised.

Conservative therapies that may help relieve herniated disc symptoms include:

  • Stretching
  • Applying heat or ice to a painful area of the neck or back
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications or prescription pain relievers
  • Participating in physical therapy
  • Losing weight, if necessary

For some people, herniated disc symptoms continue to get worse throughout the conservative treatment process. The complications can even reach the point where they interfere with a person’s daily life, making it difficult to focus on everyday activities.

While this can be extremely frustrating, there are other options that may help. Surgery, for instance, can be performed to remove some of the herniated disc material or otherwise create additional space in the spinal canal to alleviate pressure on compressed nerves.

Minimally invasive herniated disc surgery at Laser Spine Institute

If you’re considering herniated disc surgery, Laser Spine Institute can review* your MRI for free and help you find out if you’re a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures. Our surgeries offer a number of advantages compared to traditional open spine surgery, including a lower risk of complications.^ To learn more about our outpatient procedures, contact us today.

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