What is the Treatment for a Herniated Disc in the Lower Back?

Steve R.
Steve R.
Over-the-counter painkillers can help with lower back pain.
Over-the-counter painkillers can help with lower back pain.

A herniated disc in the lower back is a common ailment affecting millions of people. Also known as a slipped disc, a herniated disc takes place when the cushion between the spinal vertebra is forced outside of its regular position and places pressure on adjacent nerves often causing pain. Treatment for a herniated disc in the lower back aims to bring about relief and prevent additional discomfort. In the majority of instances, a herniated disc in the lower back will heal within six months. However, in some instances, other treatment may be needed, including medication, physical therapy, and surgery as a last resort.

A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.
A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.

Initially, treatment for a herniated disc in the lower back typically consists of a period of short rest and avoiding painful situations combined with physical therapy. This method alleviates a slipped disc about 90 percent of the times. In some cases, slipped discs get better on their own through a method called resorption. With this method, the body takes in pieces of tissues from a slipped disc that has come apart.

Steroid injections might be used to treat a herniated disc in the lower back.
Steroid injections might be used to treat a herniated disc in the lower back.

Physical therapy involves exercises to diminish the soreness related to a herniated disc in the lower back and helps to strengthen muscles to enhance the spine. As an individual continues in physical therapy, he learns core strength exercises. Core exercises allow a person to build up the muscles of the torso to protect the back. Physical therapy may include traction, electrical simulation, and heat.

Disc herniations are most common in the lumbar spine.
Disc herniations are most common in the lumbar spine.

Other treatments for a herniated disc in the lower back may include medications. In mild instances of pain, a person may take an over-the-counter medication, which may include acetaminophen or ibuprofen. When pain is more severe, narcotics, including codeine may be prescribed.

An injection of steroids in the lower back may also assist in helping deal with pain for months. Steroids assist in alleviating swelling near the slipped disc. Injections are typically done out-patient. Other injections may include muscle relaxations and cortisone shots.

In about 10 percent of the cases of herniated discs, surgery may be required. Surgery may be recommended if conservative methods prove ineffective after six weeks. In addition, surgery may be performed if a person has difficulty standing or walking.

The majority cases of surgery for a herniated disc involves simply taking out the protruding part of the disc. In rare instances, the entire disc may need to come out. When this happens, the vertebrae may need to be melded together with some type of metal to offer support for the spine.

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    • Over-the-counter painkillers can help with lower back pain.
      Over-the-counter painkillers can help with lower back pain.
    • A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.
      A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.
    • Steroid injections might be used to treat a herniated disc in the lower back.
      Steroid injections might be used to treat a herniated disc in the lower back.
    • Disc herniations are most common in the lumbar spine.
      Disc herniations are most common in the lumbar spine.