Reverse Degenerative Disc Disease — Treatments for Herniated Disc
by Anthony Baker | January 10, 2017
The spine is made up of a column of bones called vertebrae.
In between each vertebra is a spongy piece of tissue called a disc. The discs act as cushions for the bones, preventing them from rubbing against each other, and contributing to the flexibility of the spine.
In many people, the discs start to fall apart over time, especially in those who sit for long periods; this is called degeneration.
The discs may even bulge out some from the space between vertebrae, have parts of them squeezed out (herniated), or be pushed out (extruded) entirely. This is commonly known as having a herniated disc. Many people with a herniated disc have no symptoms at all. In others, it can cause significant problems when they are unable to work or do the activities of daily living.
For this reason, it is important to learn how to reverse this disease and regenerate damaged discs.
Treatment #1: Medications
- Try over-the-counter pain relievers. Before asking your doctor for a prescription, try to manage your pain with over-the-counter medications (e.g., ibuprofen and naproxen). These have few side effects and can also help reduce any swelling and inflammation.
- Get a prescription for narcotics. If the pain is not adequately relieved by over-the-counter medications, ask your doctor for a prescription for a medication that contains opioids, such as codeine or Percocet. Be cautious since these drugs have more side effects and can be habit-forming. Do not take more than is needed.
- Take a muscle relaxant. The back pain may be exacerbated by tense muscles or muscle spasms. Tell your doctor if you suffer from these problems, and a muscle relaxant may be prescribed.
Treatment #2: Cortisone Shot
- Consider a cortisone injection. An injection of steroids into the area of the herniated disc may reduce pain because it decreases inflammation and swelling. Not all patients benefit from cortisone injections, but it might help you lower your reliance on pain medications and avoid costly surgery.
Treatment #3: Non-Invasive Treatments
- Use ice and heat. The old standbys ice and heat can be useful tools in your battle to fight a herniated disc. Use ice on your back at the end of the day or after exercising, and use heat in the morning or before exercising.
- Pay attention to posture and position. Some positions are more painful than others. Pay attention to which positions are more comfortable and which exacerbate the pain. When sitting or standing, use good posture, and change positions often.
- Try electrical stimulation. Mild electrical stimulation can help chronic pain sufferers reduce pain.
- Consider spinal traction. Manual or mechanical traction can reduce pressure on the affected nerves.
Treatment #4: Exercises to Strengthen the Back
- Plan an exercise program. The earlier steps help you get a handle on your pain. With this step, you begin healing your back. Regular exercise for the back is probably the most important thing you will do. To heal your degenerated discs, you must strengthen the back muscles and restore proper functioning of the joints.
- Use a chiropractor, physical therapist, or personal trainer. Ideally you should find a professional who has experience working with people with back disorders, such as herniated discs and sciatica. This is important because they can help you avoid further injury and also help you target the appropriate muscles in the back.
- Maintain the exercise program. It is important that you continue an exercise program even after the pain goes away. If you have herniated a disc once, you are at higher risk of getting another disc injury, either from the same or a different disc.
Treatment #5: Surgery
- Consider surgery. Surgery can be done to remove the herniated disc—or even the entire damaged disc. Only a small percentage of patients with degenerative spine disease require surgery. It is important that you exhaust your other options before considering this invasive step. Surgery is costly, not without risks, and requires a recovery period. There is also no guarantee that surgery will eliminate the pain entirely.
The good news about degenerative (herniated) spine disease is that the body is able to heal itself in many cases, and all that is required on the part of patients is attention to good posture, pain management and a careful program of physical therapy or exercise. Surgery can, thankfully, be avoided for most people.