A herniated intervertebral disc can be very painful and even temporarily crippling in some cases. However, this condition is often relatively easy to treat, and most doctors opt for symptom management while the body works to heal itself. The American Academy of Family Physicians states, “The majority of patients experience resolution of their symptoms regardless of the treatment method.” Some patients, however, have herniated discs that are not able to heal through symptom management alone.
Surgery. In a small handful of cases, the normal healing period for a herniated disc elapses (about four to six weeks), and the pain isn’t any better. Alternatively, sometimes the pain is so severe and crippling from the start that simply taking some pain medication won’t do, and relief is needed very quickly. In these cases, surgery may be recommended.
Pain medication. Whether it’s over-the-counter or prescription, or even injected directly into the area near the herniated disc, pain medication is generally a central part of herniated disc treatment. Which type of medication is used will generally depend on the severity, your normal activity level and any other medications you have that may interact with the pain drug of choice.
Exercise. While there is some debate about whether exercise actually helps relieve the pain of a herniated disc, it is widely accepted that you do need at least some exercise to affect a full recovery. While limited bed rest may be recommended by your doctor, too much can cause muscle tone issues that can slow and complicate the healing process. Some exercises are believed to directly help relieve pain because they help build up the supporting muscles, taking the strain off of the herniated disc.
Lifestyle changes. Two of the biggest contributors to back pain and the risk of herniated discs are being overweight and having bad posture. Studies show that sitting in a chair with slumped shoulders puts more strain on your lower back than trying to lift a weight while bent at the waist. Adding a few simple habits for daily diet and exercise, as well as how you sit and move, may go a long way toward alleviating the pain from a herniated disc.