Usually conservative (non-surgical) treatments are applied for around four to six weeks before determining whether back surgery is essential. Often a combination of two treatments is used and with trial and error, the patient finds out which combination of non surgical method suits him/her the best. For example, taking over the counter drugs combined with physical therapy may yield better results.
Few herniated disc treatments
- Rest & Activity Modification
The first treatment is to rest and avoid activities that aggravate your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a short period of rest or reduced activity followed by a gradual increase in activity. Embracing activities that prevent your spine from injury goes a long way in preventing the pain.
- Ice & Heat Applications
Ice and heat application relieve muscle spasm and provide significant pain relief.
- Physical Therapy
Physical therapy and lumbar stabilization exercises do not directly affect the herniated disc, but they can stabilize the lumbar spine muscles. The stronger and better balanced the muscles are, the more immune you are to the risk of injuring your nerves and the disc. A physio therapy teaches you simple exercises to do at home to strengthen the muscles that support your lower back.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) reduce inflammation and can relieve some pressure on the compressed nerves. NSAIDs should be used under your doctor’s supervision.
- Oral Steroid Medications
Oral steroid medications can be very helpful in episodes of an acute disc herniation. Prednisone and Medrol are common examples. Like NSAIDs, they reduce inflammation around the compressed nerves.
- Other Medications
Narcotic pain medications and muscle relaxers are other medications used to soothe pain. They are useful for severe, short-term pain management. The side effects include drowsiness and probably addiction. You also have Epidural injections to decrease inflammation for pain relief.
The goals of treatment for a herniated disc are to:
- Relieve pain, weakness, or numbness
- Return to normal life, recreation, etc.
- Prevent re-injury to your back and reduce the risk of disability from back pain.
About 50 percent of the people will find their inflammation subsiding within one month and within six months most of the people recover.