A herniated disc refers to a condition wherein the spongy material between the bones of the back slips out of place. The extended disc material sometimes presses against adjacent nerves, sometimes resulting in pain radiating beyond the back to the legs. Image testing identifies a bulging (herniated) disc. After receiving a diagnosis, take comfort in knowing that you have an assortment of treatment options.
Surgery Isn’t Always Necessary
Surgery is a last resort for any type of back pain that doesn’t require immediate medical attention. You’ll likely have time to make a decision when it comes to treatment options for your herniated disc, since immediate attention is rarely required. If you are not experiencing significant pain from your herniated disc, you may require little or not treatment beyond the occasional over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. Possible treatment options other than surgery include:
– NSAIDs such as ibuprofen
– Hot/cold applications
– Chiropractic manipulation
Explore Multiple Treatments
A herniated disc affects each person differently, with some people responding well to one treatment at first and then finding more substantial relief from another treatment later. You may, for instance, find relief from OTC or prescription drugs for a few months and end up turning to physical therapy when medication is no longer as effective.
You can usually tell within a week if medications are providing relief. If you opt for a treatment such as physical therapy, however, it may take longer to see meaningful results. In order to help narrow down a treatment, your doctor may insist on trying one option at a time to determine which is likely to work best for you.
Conservative treatments are typically given at least six to eight weeks to work. It’s only when pain is not responding to such treatments, or becoming progressively worse, that surgery is considered. If you do need surgery to remove the offending disc material (discectomy), there are minimally invasive procedures that often shorten recovery times and reduce risks.