There are plenty of common names for a herniated disc, including slipped, ruptured, torn, bulging, and leaking. Despite the somewhat violent names, a herniated disc isn’t always a medical problem. You can have one without any observable symptoms before the disc itself heals.
Due to the tight structure of your spine, though, any injury that alters the shape of a disc can put pressure on nerves branching off the spinal cord. Each disc itself has a small network of nerve tissue, usually concentrated on the back side of the disc, where most herniations occur.
Most herniations occur in the lower back, but you can experience disc problems in the neck, too. In this case, radiated pain symptoms may be apparent in your hands and arms, usually on one side.
While discs often heal spontaneously, they can be painful when they’re symptomatic, and treatment is often necessary to speed recovery and manage pain. Look to the specialists at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center.
Dr. Erik Curtis and Dr. Abhisheik Sharma are experts in disc issues, including surgical solutions in the rare cases a herniation progresses. Most cases require only conservative care. Here’s how disc herniations are typically treated.
Time, it’s said, heals all wounds and while that’s not always the case with disc herniation, it’s the first line of treatment. A day or two of rest, refraining from strenuous activities, is often enough to let the body begin the repair process. While you may be tempted to completely avoid movement, moderate activity, like gentle walks, will better support healing in most cases.
Over-the-counter pain medication
As your disc herniation begins to heal, pain symptoms may be the biggest distraction. Often, readily available pain relievers, including acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen, can reduce pain to a manageable level.
Hot and cold therapy
Cold packs are typically recommended, several times per day in 15-minute increments, when herniation symptoms come on quickly. After 24 hours, alternating cold and hot compresses usually produces the best results.
Expanding on gentle walks, a physical therapist can help you strengthen muscles that support the spine, taking pressure off the site of the herniation. You’ll learn positions and movements that avoid pain and support healing.
While 2 out of 10 Americans suffer disc herniation every year, very few of them will ever need surgery to repair the problem. The most frequent approach typically uses minimally invasive techniques to remove the protruding part of the disc. In the most severe cases, disc replacement or spinal fusion may be needed.
When your home-care efforts produce little result, call Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center at 602-755-3441 to schedule an exam. If this is your first visit, feel free to use the New Patient link at the upper right of this page. There’s no reason to live with back pain. Book your consultation today.