Lumbar disc herniation occurs when the integrity of one or more spinal discs in the lower back gets compromised due to aging, wear-and-tear, disease, or injury. The affected discs may bulge or even burst, pressing on the spinal cord. This pressure can cause pain or, in severe cases, paralysis.
Fortunately, there are many herniated disc treatment options—from at-home remedies to medical procedures. Knowing your options can help you choose the right treatment for maximum benefits.
Exercise and Rest
While exercise seems counterintuitive as a herniated disc treatment, being more fit can help with symptoms. Exercise, when paired with sufficient rest, can be a great help to people suffering from a herniated disc.
Physical movement stimulates muscle growth and makes bones more resilient. In particular, many exercises strengthen the core muscles that support the spine. With a stronger core, your spine is less likely to suffer from mechanical stresses. In turn, your herniated discs are less likely to worsen.
Exercise also helps you retain or improve mobility, preventing your spine from suffering further damage. Patients who opt to stop exercising might find it harder to return to their active lifestyles. So, for those seeking herniated disc relief, exercise is highly beneficial. Doctors usually recommend this in conjunction with other therapies.
Although exercise is beneficial, you should engage in physical activity with caution — herniated discs are a weak spot in the spine. Only work out as much as the pain allows, and don’t push too hard. Furthermore, high-impact movements, such as contact sports or weightlifting, may worsen the herniation. Consult with your doctor and get clearance for exercise before beginning.
It’s also crucial to get enough rest and give your body time to recover after a workout. Proper posture during rest can minimize the pressure on your spine and prevent pain. Also, you can try lying on your back and elevating your legs on a raised object for a few minutes. Doing so provides many patients with significant pain relief.
Doctors may also prescribe medicines for pain management. The most common drugs for herniated disc treatment are painkillers that suppress sensations, such as acetaminophen. Patients commonly take this medicine due to its relatively mild side effects.
Your doctor may also recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for herniated disc treatment. NSAIDs provide both pain relief and anti-inflammatory effects.
Other medications include opioids and steroids, which are more potent substances that block pain and reduce inflammation. Muscle relaxants, which can prevent pain spasms, are also effective for herniated disc treatment.
Another treatment option involves manual therapies designed to relax muscles and provide pain relief. These are passive treatments since they do not require any active input from the patient.
Manual therapies include the application of heat to soothe inflamed areas. Alternatively, cold packs can be used to numb injured areas and reduce pain.
Some patients also benefit from gentle massages. While massages can’t restore herniated discs, they help reduce muscle tension and provide some pain relief. A similar intervention is ultrasound therapy, which applies small vibrations near the spine.
If significant pain persists even after trying conventional treatments, your doctor may recommend back surgery.
Spinal fusion is one type of surgery meant to address lumbar disc herniation. During this procedure, a surgeon uses bone grafts to fuse adjacent vertebrae of the spine permanently. They also remove the damaged disc. Over several weeks, the fused vertebrae heal into a single unit, stabilizing the spine.
Another surgical intervention is laminectomy, which aims to ease the mechanical pressure on the spinal cord and other nerves. During this operation, the surgeon removes the herniated disc along with any excessive bone material. Through the removal of bone spurs or growths, your spinal cord has greater clearance within the spine.
Surgery requires weeks of recovery and can be more expensive than other treatments. However, it is effective for people whose condition is unresponsive to conservative treatment methods.
Herniated Disc Treatment in Rochester Hills, Michigan
There is a wide range of treatments for lumbar disc herniation, from lifestyle changes and medication to therapy sessions and surgery. Working with a well-experienced orthopedic physician can help you determine the treatment most appropriate for your condition.
Ahlgren Spine Orthopaedic Surgery provides high-quality treatments for many spinal conditions. Dr. Ahlgren and his team work with patients to provide pain relief and help them return to an active lifestyle. Learn more by calling us at (248) 215-8080 or by scheduling a visit through our online appointment request form.