Back Pain Causes and Solutions: Herniated Discs
The soft cushioning structure between each vertebral bone structure of the spine is the spinal disc. When a spinal disc “slips” after a fall, accident, or even years of normal wear and tear, it is ruptured and a small part of the disc is pushed or damaged in a way that pinches on the spinal nerves or spinal cord. Herniated discs are most common in the lower back, or lumbar spine.
After diagnosis, spine specialists use a conservative (or nonsurgical) method to treat the condition, but if symptoms are not resolved, other treatments may be used to provide relief.
The courses of treatment used to care for herniated discs in the lower back include:
- Rest and activity modification can help alleviate some symptoms associated with herniated discs as well as help avoid further damage. Your spine doctor will recommend that you rest and avoid strenuous activities as some instances of disc herniation may resolve themselves with time.
- Physical therapy can offer some exercises to help stabilize and strengthen the lumbar spine muscles. Stronger muscles help control the spine and reduce the risk of injury to the nerves around the disc.
- Epidural steroid injections, or injections of cortisone, can go directly into the area of the nerve compression to help relieve the pressure on the nerve.
- Surgery is only considered when conservative measures are unsuccessful. Surgical options for herniated discs include discectomy (removing damaged portions of the disc), lumbar fusion (removing the disc and fusing the bone structures together), and artificial disc replacement (removing the damaged disc and replacing it with a new one).
If surgery is needed, the surgical treatment plan used will depend on your condition, the extent of the disc damage, and your needs and goals. Various forms of surgical treatment for herniated discs are used to relieve spinal cord compression, decrease pain, and restore function and mobility for the patient. Recovery from a herniated disc surgery can take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks.