When you’ve hurt your back and you can’t get up what do you do?
If you can’t get up, you call for emergency help
We’re not making light of someone who truly can’t get up but most of the time when you hurt your back, you can get up and get to the doctor.
The key phrase here is get to the doctor.
Most people initially self-diagnose and take a few hours or a day or so and rest.
A round of extra-strength over-the-counter pain medication is often taken.
But what if your back pain doesn’t go away? What is it’s something more serious like a ruptured or herniated disc?
Modern medicine has an answer for you!
If you do have a herniated disc, it’s not the end of the world.
We’ve put together a mini-guide for people who are considering or are worried about herniated disc treatment. If you’re not sure you have a herniated disc, call your doctor today.
In the meantime, read this guide so you’re prepared when it’s time for your doctor visit.
What Is a Herniated Disc?
Back pain is so common most people have either experienced it or have a family member who has suffered from it. A staggering 80% of adults experience back pain at least once in their lifetime.
Most people don’t immediately assume their back pain is caused by a herniated disc. The average person assumes they’ve over-exerted at the gym or lifted a heavy object the wrong way.
Back pain can be caused by either activity but it could also be caused by a herniated disc, also called a bulging or ruptured disc.
A herniated disc is a condition of the cervical or lumbar spine. The cervical spine relates to the neck. The lumbar spine refers to the lower back.
When a disc is herniated nerves around the disc compress creating pain in the back, neck, arms, and legs, depending on whether the disc is located in the cervical or lumbar spine.
Disc pain is most common in the lower back because that’s where most of the movement the spine occurs.
Pain in the neck, arms, or legs should be investigated as well since a herniated disc in the cervical spine may be the culprit.
As soon as you tell someone you’re having severe back pain, they’re likely to tell you it’s a herniated disc. Beware of listening to anyone other than a doctor. Self-diagnosis of a herniated disk is impossible.
You may suspect you have a disc issue but your doctor is the only one who can confirm it.
Once you have a diagnosis, your doctor will recommend the best treatment for your unique situation.
If you’ve avoided seeing a doctor because you’re afraid of surgery, keep reading because surgery isn’t normally the first treatment offered to a patient.
Doctors don’t rush patients into surgery unless not having surgery poses a serious health risk. They prefer what is considered conservative treatment methods.
The most common first treatment for a herniated disc is rest.
Most patients don’t have a problem resting since they’re often in so much pain they can’t do much else.
Rest means no lifting and no strenuous exercise. You won’t be joining your friends at the gym.
Some patients go overboard with rest and stay in bed way longer than they should. Rest beyond 1-2 days does more harm than good as it can cause stiff muscles
Rest is a wonderful first treatment but don’t most doctors also offer medication?
Another popular conservative treatment options is medication.
Depending on your pain level, you may be prescribed one of the following medications:
- Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
- Narcotics like codeine or an oxycodone-acetaminophen combination.
- Anticonvulsants are usually prescribed for patients who have seizures but they can help treat nerve pain caused by a herniated disc as well.
- Muscle relaxers if you have muscle spasms-common with a herniated disc.
- Cortisone injections for relief of inflammation.
Patients who follow doctors orders and their pain medication regimen normally feel relief within a few days or weeks.
You may be thinking “I’ve rested. I’m taking my pain meds. I’m still in pain.”
Doctors have another conservative treatment they suggest for patients when pain isn’t significantly reduced within a few weeks.
Physical Therapy Next
Physical therapy is also considered a conservative care treatment for a herniated disc.
During physical therapy, patients learn techniques which help avoid activity that aggravates the disc. You may also learn ways you can improve your posture so that you reduce pressure on the disc.
Physical therapy is designed for minimization of the pain of a herniated disk.
The timeline for healing ranges from 2-8 weeks. Of course, healing depends on dedication to the physical therapy program. Dedication of the patient, not the physical therapy team.
Some patients simply don’t respond to rest, medication, or physical therapy and at that point, doctors begin discussing what are considered invasive treatment methods.
Before looking at those, however, let’s take a moment and discuss a few other ways doctors can help patients manage pain.
Alternative Pain Management
Medication isn’t the only treatment method used for pain management.
Doctors who treat disc herniation have access to a wide range of non or minimally invasive treatments.
If you’re more interested in trying pain management your doctor may suggest anything from surgical stimulation to spinal injections. Remember, each patient is unique and will respond to treatment in their own way.
What works for a friend may not be the best pain management option for you.
Let your doctor discuss the best options so that you have the best chance of successful treatment.
There will always be patients who don’t respond well to any of the already mentioned treatments for their herniated discs.
The best option may be surgery.
Surgical Herniated Disc Treatment
The most critical action you can take as a patient getting in for a visit with the doctor. You may only need rest or medication but the doctor is the best judge of what treatment method is best for your unique needs.
Surgery may be your answer!
Spine-health has come a long way. There are several minimally invasive surgical treatments available for treatment of a herniated or bulging disc.
Your doctor won’t make rash decisions when determining whether you’re a candidate for surgical treatment. Before any surgery is scheduled you’ll have a complete review of your MRI. Then, you’ll have a surgical consultation.
Modern surgical techniques include:
- Minimally invasive decompression surgery
- Endoscopic Cervical Discectomy
- Anterior Cervical Discectomy
There are many other surgical treatments available and your doctor will go over each with you before you both determine which is best for you.
Whichever treatment method you and your doctor decide is best, the end goal is life without the painful and debilitating effects of a herniated disc.
Which Treatment Option is Best for You?
Staff at Executive Spine Surgery get excited about helping patients enjoy spine health.
If you’re experiencing back pain, or if you’ve already been diagnosed and are ready for herniated disc treatment, let us help you understand your treatment options.
We invite you to get to know us and find out whether you’re a candidate