A herniated disc is a condition that occurs when the soft inner portion of a spinal disc (called the nucleus) protrudes through a crack in the tough outer ring (called the annulus). This can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs, depending on which nerve is compressed by the herniated disc.
Herniated discs are common and can affect anyone, but they are more likely to occur with aging, trauma, obesity, physically demanding jobs, or genetic factors. Fortunately, there are various treatment options available for herniated discs, ranging from conservative to surgical.
Here are some of the benefits of herniated disc treatments and how they can improve your quality of life.
Most people with herniated discs can find relief with conservative treatments, which involve modifying activities to avoid movements that cause pain and taking pain medication.
Conservative treatment options may include:
- Nonprescription pain medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen, to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Neuropathic drugs, such as gabapentin, pregabalin, duloxetine, or venlafaxine, to treat nerve pain caused by the herniated disc.
- Physical therapy, which involves exercises and stretches to improve flexibility, strength, posture, and function of the spine and surrounding muscles.
- Heating pad or ice pack, which can soothe painful muscles and reduce swelling.
- Epidural steroid injection, which involves injecting a cortisone-like drug into the space around the spinal cord to decrease inflammation and pain.
The benefits of conservative treatments are that they are non-invasive, safe, effective for most people, and have few side effects. Conservative treatment applications can help you resume your normal activities and prevent further damage to your spine.
If conservative treatment fails to improve your symptoms, or if you have severe pain or nerve weakness that affects your ability to stand or walk, your doctor may recommend a surgical treatment. Surgical treatments involve removing the damaged part of the disc that is pressing on the nerve. There are different types of surgical procedures for herniated discs, such as:
- Discectomy, which is the most common surgery for herniated discs. It involves making a small incision in the back and using a microscope or a tiny video camera to remove the herniated portion of the disc.
- Spinal fusion, which is sometimes done along with discectomy if the whole disc needs to be removed or if the spine is unstable. It involves fusing two adjacent vertebrae together with a piece of bone or a synthetic bone substitute and metal instrumentation.
The benefits of a surgical treatment are that it can provide faster and more lasting relief of pain and nerve symptoms than conservative treatment. Surgical treatments can also restore your spinal alignment and stability and prevent further disc herniation. Contact a medical facility like Sonoran Spine to learn more.