How Are Herniated Discs Treated?

"What Is The Best Treatment For A Herniated Disc?"
by Dr. Benjamin Geddes

Sure. So there's a whole spectrum of things. I mean, from conservative treatment, meaning medications, physical therapy, just trying to manage the symptoms to allow your body to heal itself. The issue with that, I mean, sometimes that can be effective, but the time course for how long it takes for your body to heal itself is variable and it can be months, if not longer.

And so if it gets to the point where the symptoms are bad enough or you're just not responding well enough, the next level of invasiveness would be either an epidural steroid injection, which is an option where a needle is inserted near the spine to inject some steroid medicine to hopefully combat inflammation around the nerves. It doesn't take away the disc. It doesn't make more space for the nerves, but it can help with the swelling and inflammation in the nerve and give you some symptomatic relief. Again, trying to buy yourself time to heal yourself. Again, typically a pretty long process.

The most expedited way to get rid of the symptoms would be to do surgery. And typically that's an anterior base surgery, a surgery to the front of the neck. And you want to remove the disc in any arthritic bone material that's pushing on the nerves of the spinal cord. And in that particular scenario, you can either do a fusion surgery where you place a spacer and a plate and screws to hold everything in place with some bone grafts so that those bones fuse together and become one bone over time. Or you can put a disc replacement prosthesis in which allows for more normal motion, just like if you had a hip or knee replacement. But again, all that arthritic or disc-related material is pushing on the nerves will have been removed and you should have pretty instant relief of a lot of your symptoms.

Sometimes the weakness if you have true weakness, which is less common but certainly can happen, or if you have true numbness, sometimes that takes a little bit longer after surgery, but typically resolves over the next several weeks to months. But the pain typically gets better pretty much instantly.

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