Will I Need Surgery to Repair a Herniated Disc?

When the protective, cushioning discs between your spinal vertebrae wear down, the soft center can push through and compress the nerves in your spinal canal. This condition, known as a herniated disc, can be extremely painful and even interfere with your quality of life.

Proper treatment for a herniated disc is essential to manage pain and keep you physically active. However, the majority of people we treat here at Douglas J. Abeles, MD & Associates won’t need to undergo surgery. Dr. Abeles offers many effective nonsurgical options to address the pain and disability of a herniated disc, and reserves surgery for a last resort.

Why discs herniate

A herniated disc can be the result of a direct injury to the spine, but more often it’s due to the degeneration of the flexible discs in the spine that comes with aging or disease.

The discs serve as cushions to protect the vertebrae by absorbing the impact of your movements. Over time, they can wear down, lose their water content, and become brittle. This wear and tear puts you at greater risk for herniation of your discs.

In some cases, the body can repair the disc on its own with plenty of rest and patience. However, if the soft-gel center pushes through the outer casing into the spinal canal, it can press on the nerves, causing inflammation and irritation that leaves you in constant pain.

You may also develop difficulties in walking, sitting, or standing, especially for a long period of time. This can limit your activities and your independence.

Treatment options besides surgery

The first treatment recommendation for herniated disc pain is often over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. In cases where pain persists, prescription medications may be helpful to control your pain and keep you mobile.

In addition to home treatment, Dr. Abeles may suggestion that you participate in physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support your spine and ensure your body stays flexible.

Chiropractic adjustments can also be beneficial in treating a herniated disc. This type of treatment may alleviate some of the pressure placed on your spinal nerves that leads to chronic pain.

Alternative therapies, including acupuncture, can be designed to treat herniated disc pain and speed up your own ability to heal. Acupuncture is also effective at improving your blood circulation, supplying the spine with oxygen and nutrients to keep it healthy.

When surgery is necessary

If nonsurgical therapies prove ineffective for alleviating your pain and improving your functionality, surgery may be the only alternative left to consider.

During herniated disc surgery, a small part of the disc that rubs up against the spinal nerves is trimmed away to resolve your pain and other symptoms. In rare cases, the entire disc must be taken out to give you long-term relief.

When the disc is removed, your vertebrae must be fused together surgically to prevent movement in the vertebrae. Since the protective disc is no longer able to absorb impacts, your spine must be fused onto a solid piece that may restrict your range of motion.

To find out which of our nonsurgical treatments may be right for your herniated disc pain, schedule a consultation today online or by calling our office in Castro Valley, California.

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