If you’ve been diagnosed with or have a suspected herniated disc you may be investigating different treatment options. In this blog, we’ll cover some of the main treatment options for people with herniated discs.
Firstly, what is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc is a condition that occurs when the soft, gel-like material inside a spinal disc leaks out through a tear in the outer layer of the disc. This can put pressure on nearby nerves and cause pain or other symptoms.
Some common signs and symptoms that may indicate a herniated disc include:
You may experience pain in the affected area, such as your neck, back, arms or legs. The pain may be dull, achy, or sharp, and it may get worse with certain movements or activities.
Numbness or tingling
You may also experience numbness, tingling or a pins-and-needles sensation in the affected area.
You may notice that you have weakness in the affected area, such as your arms or legs, making it difficult to perform certain tasks.
Difficulty with movement
You may have difficulty bending over, standing up straight or walking due to the pain.
Loss of bladder or bowel control
In severe cases, a herniated disc can cause loss of bladder or bowel control. If you experience this symptom, seek medical attention immediately.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see an appropriate healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Can you leave a herniated disc untreated?
Leaving a herniated disc untreated is generally not recommended as it can cause ongoing pain, weakness, numbness, and other symptoms that can significantly affect your quality of life. In some cases, a herniated disc may resolve on its own with rest and gentle exercise.
Sometimes physical therapy and other conservative treatments are enough. However, in other cases, the symptoms may persist or worsen, leading to further complications.
Untreated herniated discs can also lead to nerve damage or compression, which can cause long-term or permanent damage.
Additionally, untreated herniated discs can lead to the development of other conditions, such as spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal that can put pressure on the nerves and cause more severe symptoms.
Therefore, it is generally recommended to seek medical attention if you suspect you have a herniated disc. Your healthcare provider can recommend appropriate treatment options based on the severity of your symptoms, overall health, and other factors.
What are the best treatment options for a herniated disc?
The treatment options for a herniated disc depend on the severity and duration of the condition and the symptoms that the patient is experiencing.
In most cases, conservative treatment measures can help alleviate the symptoms of a herniated disc and avoid the need and inherent risks of surgery.
Amongst the options to consider, or use in combination, you may be offered or want to look into:
Non-surgical options: pain medications, lifestyle modifications and physical therapies. These treatments aim to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and restore mobility.
Lifestyle modifications: Certain lifestyle modifications such as maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, good posture, and avoiding activities that strain the back can help prevent further injury to the disc and reduce symptoms.
It’s best to undertake these changes slowly under the guidance of an expert in spinal issues, such as a chiropractor or physiotherapist.
Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help relieve the pain and reduce inflammation. Long-term use of pain medications is not recommended due to side effects and the risk of possible addiction.
There is also evidence that pain relief can ultimately prolong the experience of pain because it deters us from taking steps to address underlying causes and can prevent some of the body’s natural healing responses.
Physical therapies (e.g. physiotherapy, osteopathy, sports therapy): A physical therapist or healthcare professional with expertise in spinal issues can help patients with herniated discs with prescribed exercises to strengthen the muscles around the affected area, which can provide support and help alleviate pain.
They can also offer hands-on treatment to relieve pain and help improve posture and loading patterns which can contribute to disc herniation.
IDD therapy is a precise computer-guided form of traction therapy which gently relieves the pressure around a herniated disc, giving it space to heal.
Best used in combination with physical therapies, exercise and lifestyle modifications, IDD therapy can be highly effective in relieving the pain of herniated discs and supporting healing.
Minimally Invasive Procedures: Minimally invasive procedures such as epidural steroid injections, percutaneous disc decompression, and spinal manipulation (e.g. chiropractic) may also be used to treat herniated discs.
These procedures are less invasive than traditional surgery and have fewer risks and a shorter recovery time.
Surgical Treatments: Surgery is generally considered a last resort when conservative treatments fail to provide relief or if the herniated disc is severe Surgical options include microdiscectomy, laminectomy, and spinal fusion.
The most common surgical procedure is a discectomy, which involves removing the portion of the disc that is herniated and pressing on the nerves. Surgical procedures aim to remove the herniated disc or stabilize the spine.
If you are considering surgery your outcome is likely to be much better if you undertake a course of prehab and rehab to prepare and rehabilitate from your operation.
I’ve seen a gadget advertised online for herniated discs. Should I try it?
Some internet gadgets may help manage symptoms or provide relief.
For example, there are a variety of back braces or support devices that can help to reduce pressure on the affected area of the spine, which may be useful for managing pain or reducing the risk of further injury.
Additionally, there is a range of stretching and exercise programs available online that can help to improve spinal flexibility and reduce pain.
However, while there are many different types of gadgets and devices available on the internet, they are unlikely to address the underlying cause of the herniated disc or provide effective treatment.
In general, the most effective treatments for a herniated disc will depend on the severity of the condition but may include physical therapy, medication, or in some cases, surgery.
If you do purchase something online it’s important to note that any internet gadget or device should be used under the guidance of a medical professional who can provide specific recommendations based on your individual needs and condition.
So, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor before using any internet gadgets or devices for your herniated disc.
Can you go to A&E for a herniated disc?
Ideally, you should seek advice from your doctor or a spinal specialist such as a chiropractor when you first experience symptoms of potential disc herniation, so as to avoid a medical emergency arising.
They may recommend conservative treatments such as physical therapy, IDD therapy, or pain-relieving treatments (e.g epidural injections to manage symptoms.)
If you are experiencing severe or worsening symptoms related to a slipped disc, such as significant back pain, numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, or difficulty with bowel or bladder control, you should seek urgent medical attention.
The emergency department can assess your symptoms and provide appropriate treatment, which may include acute pain management, imaging tests such as an MRI, and potentially surgical intervention if necessary.
If you have any questions about the topics raised above you can contact us for advice at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The information provided above is intended as general guidance and does not constitute medical advice. Always consult a suitably qualified healthcare practitioner if you have any of the symptoms or conditions described above.