A herniated spinal disc can be extremely painful and can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. When a disc is herniated or ruptured, the gel-like, inner substance can leak into the surrounding area and aggravate the spinal nerves.
Fortunately, though, many people with pain from herniated discs experience relief from non-surgical treatment. If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc, here are some of the non-surgical treatment options your orthopedic surgeon may offer:
Short-Term Non-Surgical Treatments for Herniated Disc Pain Relief
- Ice: Pain and inflammation often accompany a herniated disc. Your orthopedic surgeon may recommend an ice pack to reduce swelling. After 48 hours, treatment with ice is less effective, so use it soon after the onset of back pain for optimum relief.
- Heat, or heat and ice: For some, heat or a combination of heat and ice is the best short-term solution to relieve herniated disc symptoms. Like ice, however, treatment with heat is less effective after the first 48 hours.
- Pain medication: As an initial non-surgical treatment for herniated disc pain, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Long-term use of NSAIDS has been linked to cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems, so limit your use of these medicines.
- Steroids: Another non-surgical option for herniated disc pain is steroids. Your orthopedic surgeon may prescribe an oral steroid to help you. Like NSAIDs, they should not be used over the long term.
- Muscle relaxants: Some people with herniated disc pain experience painful muscle spasms. If this is true for you, your orthopedic surgeon may prescribe a muscle relaxant that can help.
Long-Term Non-Surgical Treatments for Herniated Disc Pain
- Physical therapy: Spinal issues like herniated discs are often caused by weak back muscles. Because of this, your orthopedic surgeon may prescribe physical therapy, which can strengthen the back muscles reducing strain on the spine. Additionally, a physical therapist may teach you new and better ways to perform certain activities, such as lifting items, to help you avoid future herniated disc pain.
- Epidural injections: Another non-surgical treatment to relieve herniated disc pain is an epidural injection, which contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. Epidurals are injected directly into the painful area to reduce swelling and bring pain relief.
Although there is a good chance a non-surgical treatment can help reduce herniated disc pain, it can sometimes take several weeks or months to establish a personalized treatment plan. Treatment will likely involve a combination of non-surgical methods.
If you have tried non-surgical treatments for herniated disc pain that have not helped or are no longer working, there may be a minimally invasive a spine surgery option that could benefit you. Talk to your orthopedic surgeon to find out more.