The spine is made of stacked up individual bones (vertebrae) with spinal discs in between. Each disc consists of a jellylike material called the nucleus surrounded by a tough outer layer called the annulus.
A herniated disc occurs when the jellylike material pushes through a tear in the outer layer. It can cause sciatica, weakness, arm and leg pain, numbness or tingling and dull or sharp neck and shoulder pain.
Take it easy and refrain from strenuous activities and exercising for sometime. Taking rest will help reduce the swelling and allow your back to heal.
Also, it is important to note that prolonged bed rest might cause more harm than good. It can lead to weakened muscles and affect bone density. You should keep moving to make sure your joints and muscles don’t stiffen up.
2. Ice and Heat therapy
Cold or ice therapy helps with minimizing swelling and inflammation. It can also decrease tissue damage and numb soreness.
On the other hand, heat therapy helps with healing. It stimulates blood circulation and decreases stiffness.
3. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is a popular approach to relieve symptoms of a herniated disc. With the help of physical therapy, you can strengthen your muscles. Not only does a physical therapist provide immediate pain relief, but also teaches you exercises to condition your body to prevent further injury. Some passive physical therapy programmes are-
- Deep Tissue Massage
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Ultrasound Therapy
Active physical therapy focuses on flexibility, support, strength, posture and core stability. A physical therapist will work with you to develop a program to suit your specific health condition. Active physical treatment involves-
- Core Stability
- Muscle Strengthening
For mild to moderate pain, over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen-based drugs are helpful. If over-the-counter drugs are not effective, then doctors might prescribe narcotics like codeine or muscle relaxants to reduce muscle spasms.
However, these medications have side effects including nauseas, sedation, constipation and dizziness.
If the medication or physical therapy doesn’t work, then doctors might prescribe injections. Steroid medicine is injected into the space surrounding the spinal nerve. This epidural injection has anti-inflammatory agents that help decrease the swelling and eases the pain.
However, you should not completely rely on injections or medications as there is a limited number you can take. Incorporating physical therapy or other therapies will give much better results.
6. Alternative therapy
Several people opt for alternative therapies as they are often pain-free and encourage a much more conservative approach with minimum side effects.
- Chiropractic care
A herniated disc chiropractor is skilled to treat a herniated disc using manual adjustment techniques to adjust the spine and improve its functions. They eliminate any spinal misalignment with strengthening and stretching exercises and other manipulation techniques.
Chiropractic treatment is safe for kids as well. You should look for a reputed chiropractor for kids, who has experience in treating herniated discs.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting very thin needles in specific parts of the body. This helps the body to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relievers.
Most cases are treatable by non-surgical methods. But certain patients might need surgery. The most common surgery is a discectomy. It involves removing all or part of the damaged intervertebral disc. This is a minimally invasive surgery that implies shorter hospital stay, less pain and faster recovery.
Once your herniated disc gets better, you should take preventive steps to avoid another one. You should be careful while picking up heavy things to protect your back from straining. Also, it is important to sit and stand up straight.