A herniated disc can cause enough pain to keep you from enjoying your normal activities. You may experience extreme pain in your back or running down your legs or arms depending on which disc is ruptured. The diagnosis of a herniated disc is made when one of the discs between the vertebrae in your spine has ruptured or split so that gel inside is leaking out of it. If you have been told you will need surgery to correct the problem and relieve the pain, you should first make an appointment with a neurologist to find out if there is a non-surgical treatment that can help.
A neurologist may suggest traction to help correct the problem. This can be done manually, with the doctor using his or her hands to force apart the vertebrae and surrounding muscles. There is also mechanical traction, in which a machine is used to gently pull on the spine so the discs open slightly. When done properly, the disc can slip back into place. It will also relieve the pressure the disc and gel puts on the surrounding nerves. This will relieve the pain. If the disc cannot slip back into place, traction may still be helpful by stopping the vertebrae from pressing on the nerves and causing pain.
If the disc has been manipulated back into place, the neurologist may inject fluid into it to fill the space again. The fluid will contain a substance that will solidify into a spongy material so it will not leak out of the disc as readily as a liquid or gel. If the disc is not in place, you may be given injections to numb the nerves around the disc to prevent you from feeling any pain. These injections are not a permanent solution and will need to be repeated when the pain returns.
Exercise and Medications
A neurologist may prescribe inflammatory medications to help reduce any swelling in the discs that is putting pressure on the nerves and causing pain. You may also be given an exercise routine to help open the spine and strengthen the muscles around it. This will keep the pressure off the nerves and can help the disc to move back where it belongs.
You do not have to live with back pain from a herniated disc. A neurologist can give you different options for relieving the pain while helping to correct the problem. If the pain still persists, or the damage is so severe the disc will never be able to slip back into place, the doctor may recommend you see a neurosurgeon to replace the disc. However, you should try other treatments first as they are much easier on the spine.