How do I Choose the Best Therapy for a Herniated Disc?

Angela Crout-Mitchell
Angela Crout-Mitchell
A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.
A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.

There are several options available to treat herniated discs of the neck and back including physical therapy, manipulation therapies, and gentle exercises and stretching. In severe cases of herniated discs, it may be decided that surgery is needed to permanently relieve the symptoms of this condition. Therapy for a herniated disc typically begins with the most conservative approach possible, and the doctor and patient may modify and change therapies seeking the most effective one for the patient. It is not unusual for treatment of herniated discs to be an exercise in trial and error, often utilizing more than one treatment at a time, until the correct method is found. People who suffer from herniated discs are encouraged to allow each treatment option sufficient time to work before moving onto a new therapy.

Physical therapy often is prescribed for herniated discs.
Physical therapy often is prescribed for herniated discs.

Physical therapy for a herniated disc is the most commonly employed treatment. It usually involves teaching the patient gentle stretches and movements to both promote reduced strain on the affected vertebrae and also relieve the often extreme pain associated with this pathology. Another common aspect of physical therapy for herniated discs includes instructing the patient on proper body mechanics to encourage healing and help prevent a reoccurring injury to the affected area during and after recovery.

Chiropractic adjustments in the lower back are sometimes used to relieve pain from a herniated disc.
Chiropractic adjustments in the lower back are sometimes used to relieve pain from a herniated disc.

Another form of therapy for a herniated disc frequently used is the manipulative therapies. These include chiropractic adjustments and manual manipulations. Many people have found great success in relieving the pain and discomfort of living with a herniated disc while being treated by a chiropractor. By gently applying pressure to specific points on the spine, a chiropractor is able to realign the affected areas of the spine and promote natural structure. Chiropractic care is typically painless, and can be easily combined with other therapies to provide effective treatment and pain relief for the patient.

Some people experiencing a herniated disk get relief from a chiropractor.
Some people experiencing a herniated disk get relief from a chiropractor.

Surgery may be used as therapy for a herniated disc in extreme cases. The two most common surgeries used address the cervical and lumbar sections of the spine respectively. Herniated disc surgery for the cervical or neck region of the spine involves removing the soft disc material, and then the open disc space is fused to ensure the bony material of the disc stays stationary. When the herniated disc is located in the lumbar or lower back, the surgery usually consists of removing the herniated portion of the disc, relieving the pressure on the nerve and providing pain and symptom relief. In most cases, these surgeries are successful and the patient is able to enjoy a normal lifestyle.

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Discussion Comments

Spotiche5

@rundocuri- I think your friend should absolutely get another opinion about her treatment options for herniated disc. Though her doctor may have found a problem that can only be treated with surgery, it is never a good idea to take the first opinion about having such an aggressive treatment. Surgery may not cure her pain anyway, so unless there is more to her diagnosis, she should at least consider other treatment alternatives first.

Rundocuri

My best friend was told that she should have surgery to correct her herniated disc, which was surprising to me. She had only been to the doctor one time for this problem, and didn't receive any instructions to try a less invasive treatment first. Should she get a second opinion before going through with her surgery?

Ocelot60

I have a herniated disc, and I have found that walking is a great therapy for me. Keeping active in this way helps keep me flexible, and reduces the occurrences of neck and back pain that I experience.

For the best results from a weekly regimen of walking, check with your doctor first to make sure it is a good therapy for your herniated disc. This is important because it is always best to get your doctor's approval before doing any new exercises.

Next, make sure you have a pair of athletic or walking shoes that are comfortable and supportive. They will help keep your body posture in a good position and relieve shock, which in turn will help minimize upper and lower back pain.

Finally, set a goal for yourself to build up your walking routine to at least one mile, three times a week. Though you may have to start your walking workout with less distance and time, the more you walk, the better you will begin to feel.

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    • A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.
      By: Alila
      A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.
    • Physical therapy often is prescribed for herniated discs.
      By: mangostock
      Physical therapy often is prescribed for herniated discs.
    • Chiropractic adjustments in the lower back are sometimes used to relieve pain from a herniated disc.
      By: Anatomical Design
      Chiropractic adjustments in the lower back are sometimes used to relieve pain from a herniated disc.
    • Some people experiencing a herniated disk get relief from a chiropractor.
      By: Rainer Plendl
      Some people experiencing a herniated disk get relief from a chiropractor.