Between each of the vertebrae that make up your spine are small cushions called disks. In some cases, the disk between two of the vertebrae press on nerves surrounding the backbone. This is what's known as a herniated disk, and it can lead to serious back pain if untreated. Most people are able to relieve their pain from a herniated disk using medications or other types of therapy, with improvements seen in about four to six weeks. However, in cases where the pain is very severe, surgery may be used as a treatment. Read on to learn more about the possible treatment options for relieving herniated disk pain.
1. At-home options: For mild herniated disk pain, most of the relief can be achieved with simple home remedies. For instance, applying a heating pad or ice pack to the affected area may be a good way to temporarily relieve pain. Additionally, getting some extra bed rest and avoiding strenuous exercise or work for a few days may do the trick. If the pain persists even after applying these remedies, it's important to consult a doctor about other pain relief options.
2. Careful movements: It's important to make sure that you don't exert any unnecessary pressure on your herniated disk. Wearing high heels, sleeping on your stomach and standing or sitting for long periods of time should be avoided due to the added pressure on your spine. Remember to keep your back straight while lifting heavy objects, using knees and hips instead. It's also helpful to focus on keeping good posture whether you are standing or sitting.
3. Exercise: There are several great exercises and stretches which may help relieve the pain associated with a herniated disk. This includes full stretching of the back like bending forward and side-to-side using smooth, consistent motions. A physician should be able to recommend a few additional exercises that will strengthen your back in a way that is advantageous to you according to the location of your herniated disk. As your back becomes stronger, the pressure on the disk should lessen, causing the pain to ease.
4. Seeing a chiropractor: In some cases, seeing a chiropractor may be helpful in relieving the pain associated with a herniated disk. It's important to make sure that the physician treating your disk problems works in coordination with your chiropractor so that all parties are aware of the exact location of the affected disk. This ensures that your chiropractor can perform procedures that are most helpful to your specific condition while avoiding any added injuries or pain.
5. Over-the-counter medications: When the pain from a herniated disk is only moderate, an over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication should do the trick. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen are a few of the most popular choices for OTC pain meds. Because these provide only temporary relief from pain, a doctor should be consulted before making this a part of your daily pain relief regimen.
6. Prescription medications: When over-the-counter medications are not sufficient, a physician may need to prescribe something instead. This could include medications like narcotics, nerve pain medications, muscle relaxers or even epidural injections. Although the relief from pain that these medications provide is much faster and more thorough than that which is provided by OTC pain meds, the side effects are more serious. Confusion, tiredness, nausea and constipation may occur as a result of taking these prescription pain medications, so it's important to consider how these factors will affect your day-to-day routine.
7. Surgery: Since most herniated disk pain can be treated non-surgically, this option is reserved for only the most severe cases. Many herniated disk surgery options are minimally invasive and have high success rates, but the recovery process can be long.
Keep in mind that the best treatment options are not the same for each case of a herniated disk. Depending on the extent of the damage, location of the disk and personal health, some treatment options may be more suited to one individual than to another. Always consult with your doctor first before beginning any type of pain treatment regimen for your herniated disk.