Disc herniation treatment: Relieving your pain and getting your life back
Pain from a herniated disc can be severe, but treatment options are effective and can include pain relievers, therapy, and surgery
A herniated disc is a problem with one of the discs which provide padding between the vertebrae of your spine. A herniated disc may irritate nearby nerves, resulting in pain, numbness or weakness. Disc herniations may be caused by lifting, advanced age, or anything that can create a rupture. Genetics, smoking, and some occupational and recreational activity may also lead to early disc degeneration.
What is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc occurs when the soft, jelly-like center of a spinal disc ruptures, pushing the center through a tear. When this occurs, the ruptured center can irritate a nearby nerve, resulting in pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms or legs.
How do I know if I have a herniated disc?
Signs of a herniated disc typically center on pain. Although herniated discs can happen in any place, they are most common in the lower part of the backbone.
A doctor may only need to check your back for tenderness, perform a physical exam, and examine your medical history to diagnose a herniated disc. If the doctor suspects another problem or needs to see which nerves are affected, one or more of the following tests may be ordered:
- X-ray, to rule out other causes of back pain
- CT scan
- Nerve conduction study
What are treatment options for herniated discs?
There are a number of treatment options for people suffering pain or reduced mobility due to herniated discs.
Nonsurgical options include:
- Application of heat and cold packs
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Exercise, including walking and swimming
- Spinal manipulation
Surgical options are generally considered if the pain persists for three month or more. They generally include decompression, where disc material is removed and the disc space is fused together to keep it open.
Cervical radiculopathy from a herniated cervical disc
When a spinal disc in the neck becomes herniated it can leak into the spinal canal and cause nerve root tunnel damage and impact the exiting nerve route. This is less common than a herniated disc lower in the spine.
Cervical radiculopathy resulting from a herniated disc is typically treated non-surgically until the symptoms subside or go away completely. Surgery is rarely considered unless there are progressively worsening symptoms or the symptoms don’t go away.
Treatment options for cervical herniated discs
Since a herniated disc cannot be repaired or healed to its normal state, treatment generally focuses on minimizing pain until the symptoms subside. Nonsurgical treatments are usually tried for up to 12 weeks before surgical treatments are considered.
Nonsurgical treatment options include ice therapy, over the counter pain medications, and rest.
Medical treatments include physical therapy such as exercise and stretching, and prescription pain medications. Massage therapy, manual traction, and epidural injections for short-term relief may also be employed.
Surgical options for cervical radiculopathy from a herniated cervical disc include:
- Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion, where a surgeon remove the entire disc and the space is maintained with a plastic, metal, or bone spacer, then the adjacent vertebrae are fused together.
- Artificial cervical disc replacement, which is similar to the procedure above except the disc is replaced with an artificial disc that preserves movement.
- Posterior cervical decompression, where the disc is approached from the back; no fusion is required.
Treatments for herniated discs at Allegheny Pain Management
Do you suffer from a herniated disc? Treatment from Allegheny Pain Management may help. Allegheny Pain Management is a modern pain management center in Altoona, Pa., serving all of central Pennsylvania. For more information, contact Allegheny Pain Management today.