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What a herniated disc might mean for you

A herniated disc occurs when part of the disc, which is located between the vertebrae of your spine, pushes out to the exterior of your spine. This irritates the nerves and can result in intense pain, inability to move as normal, and numbness or weakness in the affected limb.   

If you have a herniated disc, you are probably suffering from pain in your arms or legs. Where you feel the pain depends on which disc is affected. If the herniated disc is in your lower back, you may feel pain, numbness or weakness in your lower extremities, such as your calves or thighs. A herniated disc in the upper body, particularly the neck, will cause a patient to feel pain in their upper arms or shoulders.   

While most herniated discs are seen in older patients who have disc degeneration, a herniated disc can happen to anyone. Simple activities such as lifting boxes or even an unintended motion can lead to a herniated disc. People with a high body mass index or those who have family history of herniated discs are also more likely to suffer from this.   

If you have a herniated disc, surgery isn’t always the best option. Here are a few of the conservative and surgical treatments used for patients experiencing a herniated disc.  


Conservative Treatment Options

Most surgeons will require the use of conservative treatments before surgery is considered. Conservative treatments can be as simple as icing the affected area to more complex treatments like therapy. Conservative treatment options include: 

  • Medications: pain medications and anti-inflammatory medications are a great way to reduce the pain you feel from a herniated disc. If you are experiencing muscle spasms, you may also benefit from the use of a muscle relaxant.  
  • Heat Therapy & Ice Use: Although it seems like an old method, the use of heat and ice can help your herniated disc pain. A heating pad or the use of an ice pack on your affected area can take the pain away, although this method usually only works up to 2 days after the initial pain begins.  
  • Physical Therapy: Exercise is a great way to help our body function properly. By undergoing physical therapy, a patient will learn to use their body properly and will perform exercises that help relieve the pressure causing your herniated disc.  
  • Injections: An epidural injection containing steroid medications will help to quickly relive the pain associated with a herniated disc.  


Other conservative treatments include acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care and more.  


Surgical Treatment Options

After a variety of the above treatment options have been tried, a doctor may begin to suggest surgical options. Surgery will also be considered for patients who are experiencing other symptoms such as intense pain, loss of bladder or bowel function, or neurological symptoms. Surgical treatment options include: 

  • Microdiscectomy: This is a minimally-invasive procedure and is the process or removing the herniated portion of the disc.  
  • Spinal Fusion: If a patient is experiencing a more serious herniated disc and suffering from degenerative disc diseasespinal fusion is often the go-to surgical option. During spinal fusion, the disc space is fused together so the disc can no longer move.  
  • Artificial Disc Replacement: Another option for intense pain is an artificial disc replacement. During this procedure, a surgeon will replace the disc with a new, artificial one meant to mirror a regular disc.  


Other treatment options may be viable, so it’s important to speak with your doctor before deciding on your treatment.

If you are experiencing back problems and hope to end the constant pain you feel, contact Back Pain Centers of America at 844-201-1308 for a referral to one of back pain experts located near you. The call is free and may be the best call you make!  



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