The goals of treatment for a
herniated disc are to:
- Relieve pain, weakness, or numbness in the leg
and lower back caused by pressure on a spinal
nerve root or the spinal cord.
- Promote a
return to normal work, recreation, and other activities.
reinjury to your back and reduce the risk of disability from back pain.
Because inflammation usually fades over time, about 50% of
people with a herniated disc in the low back recover within 1 month. And within
6 months, most people recover. Only 10% of people
with herniated disc problems that cause noticeable symptoms eventually have
herniated disc heals on its own as the jellylike material (nucleus) inside the
disc is broken down and absorbed by the body, a process called
resorption. For this reason, nonsurgical treatment is
typically recommended before surgery is considered.
Nonsurgical treatment is
intended to help you return to your daily activities and usually
Education. Learn how to take care
of your back, which may include training in pain and symptom control. Your
doctor may recommend
physical therapy. A physical therapist can provide
treatment with physical or mechanical means-such as through exercise or
heat-and teach you exercises to do at home to strengthen the muscles that
support your lower back.
Rest. Your doctor
may recommend a short period of rest or reduced activity followed by a gradual
increase in activity.
Pain relief. Some
people can deal with pain without medicine if they know there is a good chance
it will go away on its own. But you can use medicine to control pain and
inflammation. Pain medicines include:
Exercise. Keep active and use
exercises, as recommended by your doctor or physical therapist, to help you
return to your usual level of activity.
Core stabilization exercises can help you strengthen
the muscles of your
trunk to protect your back.
- Fitness: Increasing Core Stability
Surgery is eventually the treatment for
about 10% of people who have a herniated disc. Surgery can be a good choice for
people who have nerve damage that is getting worse, or severe weakness or
numbness, or if pain is not improved after at least 4 weeks of nonsurgical
treatment.1 The most common and effective surgery for
herniated disc is
discectomy, in which disc material is removed through
an incision. Discectomy is done mostly to relieve pain and other symptoms in
the leg. It is not recommended if the herniated disc only causes back pain. Discectomy can relieve leg symptoms such as pain and numbness, but it does not relieve back pain.
- Herniated Disc: Should I Have Surgery?
Many people are able to resume work and daily activities soon after
surgery. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a rehabilitation program
after surgery, which might include
physical therapy and home exercises.
What To Think About
Pain management counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy can
help you develop mental skills for coping with and reducing chronic pain.
Teens and young adults rarely develop herniated discs, but when
they do, nonsurgical treatment based on rehabilitation and anti-inflammatory
medicines usually helps to relieve symptoms.3