Surgery isn’t the first line of treatment for a herniated disc. In fact, of the 2% of the US population who have a herniated disc in any given year, 90% do not require surgery for healing. Often movement modifications and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications are enough to alleviate the pain associated with a disc herniation.
If these at-home remedies don’t help, the skilled physicians at Alabama Neurological Surgery & Spine in Birmingham, Alabama, recommend other conservative nonsurgical treatments. Here are three of the most common approaches you may take before your doctor considers surgery.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications are often enough to ease mild pain associated with a herniated disc, but if you have serious pain due to the condition, you may need a more powerful pharmaceutical.
Muscle relaxants help calm spasms and ease pain associated with a herniated disc, especially when it’s pinched a nerve. A week or two of this medication helps relieve the immediate pain and ease muscle activity so your body can relax. Usually, after just a few weeks, the muscle spasms resolve on their own.
Prescription pain relievers can also help when nerve pain is so severe that it radiates to your neck, arms, legs, or buttocks. A short course of prescription pain relievers helps you feel better until other medications and interventions start to work.
Oral corticosteroids are another type of medication that we may recommend to reduce inflammation that’s causing instant irritation in your back. You take oral steroids for 7-10 days, and then we reevaluate your situation to discuss further treatment if needed.
Physical therapy trains you to move your body in ways that help relieve pain and prevent further damage to a herniated disc. Physical therapy treatment plans are based on your daily routine, the location of your pain, and your overall health.
Included in your physical therapy plan are core strengthening exercises to take some pressure off of your spine. When the core muscles of your back, upper thighs, abdomen, and buttocks don’t do their fair share, your spine does the majority of work supporting your body — worsening an existing back problem.
Core strengthening exercises kick those muscles into a working mode to support your spine and optimize function. Your physical therapist can guide you when it comes to what exercises to include or avoid when it comes to improving your functionality and fitness level. These often include stretching, heat and ice therapies, and massage therapy as part of your treatment plan.
Corticosteroid injections involve applying a targeted steroid to the area of inflammation caused by your herniated disc. Usually, we recommend these injections only after other conservative treatments have failed.
We place the steroids directly into the epidural space, an area surrounding the spinal cord. You’re given a local anesthetic, and your specialist delivers the injection using X-ray guidance to get the most precise application.
Corticosteroid injections can provide relief for up to a year. For some patients, however, the injections are less effective and their effects last only a few weeks or months.
We often pair corticosteroid injections with physical therapy, so you can build strength without pain.
If you have a herniated disc and are looking for nonsurgical pain relief, contact Alabama Neurological Surgery & Spine. We work closely with pain management specialists and physical therapists to ensure you get seamless, coordinated care.
Call our office, or use this website to request an appointment. We can assess your situation and help you determine what treatment is best, even if it is surgery.