A herniated disc can be painful for someone trying to live through daily life, but there are many options available to treat the condition. For approximately 90 percent of patients with herniated discs, conservative treatment relieves most of the pain and discomfort associated with the condition, according to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons. Conservative treatment consists of all of the options a patient will have that don’t require surgical intervention.
A herniated disc will occur in either the lumbar (lower back) or cervical (neck) region.Treating herniated discs in both of these areas is very similar, according to Spine Health. Physicians who provide treatment for herniated discs may include one or more of the following: “family practitioners, physiatrists, osteopathic physicians, neurologists and orthopedic spine surgeons or neurosurgeons,” according to AAOS. When a patient first begins to feel pain and inflammation caused by the herniated disc, a physician may recommend anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or COX-2 inhibitors. Anti-inflammatory medication can reduce pain by relieving pressure from a pinched nerve. If a patient has very severe pain, oral steroids may be prescribed for a short period of time.
In addition to taking medication, a patient may also have the options of physical therapy, chiropractic manipulation, traction and/or exercise. Certain activities, such as the McKenzie method, can help the patient better manage pain. The McKenzie method shifts pain away from the legs and arms, which are needed for everyday mobility, to a more centralized location. Chiropractic manipulation can help reduce joint dysfunction that contributes to pain, and traction can reduce pressure on the nerve root. Other options a physical therapist or chiropractor might consider for a patient include hot and cold compresses and ultrasounds to reduce muscle spasms, if present.
If a patient’s pain from a herniated disc persists, different medications, such as narcotic agents, muscle relaxants or antidepressants may help reduce neuropathic pain and help improve sleep conditions. Additionally, a physician might recommend epidural steroid injections or selective nerve root blocks to reduce inflammation caused by a herniated disc. If conservative care goes on for months with no improvement, or if a patient has serious symptoms such as lack of bladder or bowel control, the last resort for dealing with a herniated disc is surgical intervention.