Herniated discs are a common source of back pain, since they can occur because of degeneration of the spine over several decades or an acute injury. There are several strategies used to manage the problem and help you return to normal activities.
Manage The Pain
To ease the pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually recommended. You can start with over-the-counter NSAIDs, but in some cases, prescription NSAIDs can be more effective. Another option to reduce pain are topical analgesics, such as lidocaine cream or patches. These are available in 4% concentration from retail stores or in higher percentages by prescription. Combining NSAIDs and topical lidocaine can help you achieve better pain relief than using a single method. In the days following a herniated disc, resting your back can help you avoid exacerbating the problem. Steroid injections are another option to help ease pain, especially if the herniated disc is causing nerve irritation.
Try Conservative Treatments
There are numerous conservative treatment options to ease the pain associated with a herniated disc. Depending on the location of the herniated disc, adding stabilization with a brace can help. For discs in the neck, a cervical collar may be necessary. Options for the lower thoracic and lumbar spine include wearing a back brace or corset. Stabilizing the spine can prevent the disc from further compressing surrounding nerves. Physical therapy is an important part of conservative treatment. Once you are cleared to begin activities after a period of rest, your physical therapist will likely recommend exercises designed to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles. The muscles in your core are important for supporting the spine and providing you with better posture, which can decrease pain associated with a herniated disc.
Consider Your Surgical Options
Depending on the location and severity of a herniated disc, surgery may be the first option. If a herniated disc causes significant neurological impairments, such as paralysis, loss of badder or bowel function, or severe nerve pain, correcting the problem surgically is necessary. Typically, the affected disc will be removed and the neighboring vertebrae are fused together. If the surrounding vertebrae are in poor condition, bone grafting may be necessary.
In many cases of a herniated disc, surgery is reserved for people who have not responded to conservative approaches and remain in significant pain or become limited in their daily activities. Surgery is not always an easy decision. Since fusing the vertebrae will limit motion of the spine, you must consider how the surgery will affect your lifestyle, especially if you have several discs that must be removed. Engaging in post-operative physical therapy can make it easier to adapt to limited range of motion and lessen the impact on daily activities.
Fortunately, many instances of disc herniation can be managed without surgery. When surgery is the only reasonable option, there are minimally invasive procedures to reduce recovery time and help you resume normal activities quicker.
For more information about managing the pain of a herniated disc, talk to a facility like the Pain Relief Center.