There’s no doubt that a herniated disc should be taken seriously, especially if it’s causing considerable pain. For patients looking to avoid surgical remedies for a disc herniation – occurring when the inner core of the disc leaks to the outer portion of that same disc – there are non-surgical spine treatments that can be highly effective for pain management.
For herniated disc pain that ranges from mild to moderate, over-the-counter medications often provide relief. Common OTC medications for herniated disc pain include:
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
When pain isn’t responding well to OTC medications, usually determined by how often pain returns after taking medication, then the next step is to find a prescription medication that may work better. Common prescription medications for relief of herniated disc pain include:
- Narcotics (codeine, Percocet)
- Nerve pain medication (Lyrica, Neurontin, Ultram, Cymbalta)
- Muscle relaxants (for related muscle spasms)
- Cortisone injections (for inflammation)
Note: Potential side effects associated with prescription medications may include nausea, confusion, dizziness and constipation.
Certain exercises, performed under the supervision of a physical therapist, may reduce pain or discomfort from a herniated disc. Physical therapy can also be beneficial for patients who are used to being physically active since therapists can often recommend modified workout routines or exercises can provide fitness benefits without pain. Some other non-surgical options for herniated discs include:
- Rest (including taking steps to get more productive sleep)
- Avoiding painful positions
- Modifying exercise routines
- Electrical stimulation
- Bracing (meant to be a short-term solution)
As a general rule, doctors tend to recommend these conservative treatments first before resorting to surgical options such as a spinal fusion. The deciding factor when it comes how to treat disc herniation is how well pain is managed and if discomfort increases to the point where it seriously affects quality of life.
If you have a herniated disc and are considering your options, know there are also surgical methods designed specifically to help the patient maintain as much range of motion as possible. For instance, motion-preserving spine surgeries, such as artificial disc replacement, often require fewer hours on the operating table, a smaller incision and thus less risk and reduced recovery time. Call 310-828-7757 to learn more about your options for spinal care and schedule an in-person consultation at The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration.