When treating a herniated disc surgery is usually left as a final option. A herniated disc will often heal with traditional aid in three to six months, but if at the six month mark there is no visual improvement in the patients condition, surgery is considered to avoid the possibility of permanent nerve damage. The only real need for surgical procedures to be performed before conservative treatment for a herniated disc is if there is a medical emergency being caused by pressure from the herniated disc.
Cauda equina sydrome in a medical emergency that places pressure on the nerves that control the bowel and bladder function. If this is left untreated permanent damage to this nerve may occur severely affecting the patients lifestyle.
Conservative Treatment for Herniated Disc
Rest – Through resting the back the body is given enough time to reabsorb the herniated portion of the disc and begin to heal properly. Bed rest should not be longer then 48 – 72 hours at maximum, as muscles will start to atrophy after this point.
Medication – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including over the counter medicine such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen products will help to relive some pressure alleviating the pain caused by a herniated disc. If you are following a treatment program and taking these types of medication, it is important that you have yourself occasionally re-evaluated to be certain you are taking the correct dosage.
Cold Packs – The goal of applying cold packs is to relieve discomfort by reducing inflammation. The process – Using a clean towel, wrap an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas and apply to the painful area. Repeat this process for fifteen to twenty minutes four times per day.
Hot packs – Once 48 hours have passed you can begin applying heat to the affected area. Using a warm pack or a heating pad on the lowest setting should provide a soothing reduction of pain. It is best to alternate between warm and cold packs.
Traction – By manipulating bones or muscles and placing them under tension to keep them from moving, pressure may be relieved.
Physical therapy – An important part of a patients recovery from a herniated disc is often attained through a physical therapy treatment program. As you work with your therapist and your condition improves they will re-evaluate your status and change your program as needed. The program will also be designed to help prevent further injuries by strengthening weak areas.
A therapeutic massage may also be recommended.(click see learn more “Best Exercises For Lower Back Pain“)
It should take no longer then a few weeks for the acute pain caused by a herniated disc to lessen, although there could be a small amount of pain that lingers for a few months. If there is a history of back problems, strengthening these muscles along with stretching exercises are recommended to help avoid backaches that often become quite common.
Back injury prevention tips
- A combination of proper lifting techniques mixed with good posture
- If you must stand in one place for long periods of time, elevate your leg by resting your foot on a short step stool. Rotate legs periodically
- If you must sit for extended periods, stand and stretch often
- Choose a chair with proper back support
- When sleeping, avoid a soft mattress. A medium firm mattress is most healthy for your back
- Do not sleep on your stomach, try to sleep on your side
- If you are on long road trips, try to stop and rest often
After injury occurs, try to avoid aggravating it by not returning to activity or exercise too quickly. Permanent back damage may occur.