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Does a Herniated Disc Require Surgery?

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  • Written By: NSPC Team

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Herniated Discs

A herniated (also known as slipped, prolonged or ruptured) cervical disc is a common cause of neck and back pain that travels to other areas of the body.

Herniated discs are a common cause of disability, and many patients are recommended for surgery as their first course of action to rid them of their pain. However, nearly 90% of patients with disc herniations don’t require surgery. Here’s why:

What Causes a Herniated Disc?

Before understanding that surgery is not your only option when it comes to a ruptured disc, it’s important to understand the causes of the condition.

With the natural aging process, discs dehydrate and lose resiliency, making them more susceptible to wear. The problem starts when your disc shifts and presses on a nearby nerve, causing pain, numbness, tingling sensations, and possibly weakness. Essentially, the jelly-like center of a spinal disc pushes out through a tear in the disc's outer layer. This can happen due to age-related wear and tear or from an injury.

Lumbar Spine Herniated Discs

A herniated disc can occur anywhere along the spine but is most common in the lower back. In this region, pressure may begin to build on one or more of the spinal nerve roots that compose the sciatic nerve. This may lead to the brain interpreting pain anywhere from the lower back down the leg into the calf or foot.

Symptoms of Herniated Discs

In many cases, patients with neck, back or leg pain, or weakness of the lower extremity muscles, are often diagnosed with a herniated disc. Signs and symptoms of this condition include:

  • Deep ache in your neck
  • Numbness and tingling down your arms, fingers, buttocks, legs, or feet
  • Pain triggered by sudden neck movement or jerking of the neck
  • Pain that gets worse with movement
  • Radiating pain that gets worse by looking up and away
  • Pain that improves with rest
  • Muscle weakness (difficulty holding/lifting things)

If you believe you have a herniated disc, your pain management doctor will conduct a complete clinical evaluation with a thorough medical history and a physical exam. Diagnostic tests such as EMG, CT, or MRI imaging may be recommended to verify the precise location and extent of the damage.

Why Surgery Isn’t Your Only Option

Surgery is usually not needed to treat a herniated disc. Greater than 90% of patients treated for herniated discs realize a significant improvement with non-surgical treatments, such as:

In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove the disc's herniated portion or relieve pressure on the nerves if other treatments haven't worked. For many, this is the last resort option to alleviate pain.

statistics on non-invasive herniated disc treatment

Alleviate Herniated Disc Pain Today

If you think you may have a herniated disc, it's important to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and to discuss your treatment options. Our board-certified pain management physicians are here to help.

National Spine & Pain Centers offers over 30 convenient office locations for you to choose from. Contact our team today to schedule your first consultation and start seeking relief.

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