Herniated discs are a common condition wherein the degenerated disc due to aging or injury ruptures through the outer ring. This potentially painful condition usually occurs in the disc at the level between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae in the lower back region. While some people don’t experience symptoms of disc herniation, others notice their flexibility decreased and experience pain which occurs when a herniated disc irritates nearby nerves. Good thing is, it’s possible to manage this condition without surgery. In fact, the surgical procedure is only recommended when traditional treatment and other measures prove to be ineffective. Throughout this post, you’re going to see different ways to tackle this problem without orthopedic surgery.
Chiropractic is a form of alternative medicine that focuses on the relationship the body’s structure, spine, and its functioning. Chiropractor uses spinal manipulation to relieve pain and improve flexibility in patients. Besides this, chiropractic is also highly beneficial for the immune system and other processes in your organism. But, let’s focus on herniated discs. Spinal manipulation poses as an effective way of managing chronic low back pain caused by many problems including herniated discs. According to Dr Fink of Chicago’s Gold Coast Orthopedic-Spine and Hand Surgery, spinal manipulation is considered safe and doesn’t induce some adverse effects in patients who experience back pain as a consequence of disc herniation. In fact, multiple studies have confirmed that chiropractic treatment is equally effective for herniated discs as other treatments.
Chiropractors use their hands or some devices to apply a controlled force to a joint of the spine. The amount of this force depends on the form of manipulation your chiropractor utilizes. The primary goal of this treatment is pain relief and improvement of physical functioning.
Exercise/ Physical Therapy/ Meditation
Physical activity is a crucial aspect of healthy lifestyle and decreases the risk of various diseases. It’s needless to mention that regular exercise regimen helps you lose weight. The weight loss is beneficial for your herniated discs too, especially in the lower back region. Why? It’s because excess weight forms additional pressure on the affected area, thus aggravating pain. While most people assume that herniated disc requires strict bedrest, that’s not entirely correct. In fact, prolonged inactivity can worsen the pain, which isn’t what you want.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that exercise has the same efficacy as a surgical procedure to tackle this problem. To alleviate the pain and improve flexibility, your doctor will recommend a physical therapy that you should follow religiously.
When it comes to herniated discs, physical activity doesn’t include strenuous activities and vigorous cardio training plan. Instead, simple stretching exercises and low-impact maneuvers can put the pain intensity under control. Some beneficial activities include:
Meditation is far too often overlooked as a viable option for health and wellness. The Journal of Neuroscience recently provided a study that proved meditation can reach pain receptors even in instances where the body has chemically blocked opioid pathways. Meditation is not only overlooked, but it is also under utilized as the process to achieving a deep state of meditation is not easily achieved. The environment you are in, has a large influence on the state of your meditation success.
The chances are high your doctor will recommend medications to manage herniated disc pain. The choice of drugs depends on the severity of pain experienced. For example:
● Over-the-counter medications – for mild to moderate pain
● Narcotics – usually prescribed when over-the-counter medications don’t help
● Nerve pain medications – to relieve nerve damage pain
● Muscle relaxers – prescribed to patients who experience muscle spasms
● Cortisone injections – to reduce inflammation
Foods you eat have a tremendous impact on your health, and spine isn’t the exception. That’s why nutrition can play a role in the management of herniated disc as well. Eating to relieve this particular problem focuses on providing the body with much-needed nutrients to support cartilage health. That’s why your diet should include plenty of vitamins C, D, and E and supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Of course, your eating pattern should include calcium which supports the health of vertebrae. Generally speaking, healthy diet for herniated disc consists of fruits, vegetables, Omega-3 fatty acids, and an abundance of protein.
Heat and ice
Thermotherapy, heat therapy, is dubbed as an effective self-care measure for muscle spasms caused by herniated discs. Warm compresses relieve stiffness and help patients move without feeling pain, particularly in the morning. Heat is helpful because it increases blood flow and oxygen supply to the affected area. Plus, it has a mild analgesic effect. As a result, the intensity of pain reduces and sore muscles relax.
On the other hand, cryotherapy or ice therapy is another self-care method to tackle inflammation and soft tissue injury. Cold gels or ice packs reduce the swelling and inflammation around the treated or compressed nerve.
These at-home treatments work best when used in combination. For example, use heat therapy to reduce stiffness and muscle spasms and ice packs or cold gels to relieve pain. A vast majority of patients claim the combination of two treatments is more effective than either of these alone.
As mentioned above, nonsurgical treatments for herniated discs are numerous. Besides exercise, medications, chiropractic and others, the following methods are also considered effective:
Acupuncture – triggers the release of endorphins or feel-good chemicals into the bloodstream, thus relieving pain naturally. Pain signals travel from the affected area to the spinal cord into the brain very slowly. This happens because nerves can only handle a limited amount of these signals. It is believed that acupuncture, generate faster signals that crowd out pain signals, thus blocking the pain sensation
Acupressure – similar to acupuncture, but instead of needles, it relies on fingers, elbows, hands to administer pressure
Massage – relieves chronic back pain successfully. It increases blood flow and delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the affected area.
Herniated disc is a very common condition that develops due to different reasons including age-related wear and tear, injury, accidents, and so on. Some people feel no symptoms while others experience pain and discomfort. The treatment for this condition is focused on pain relief and improvement of flexibility. Of course, it usually incorporates medications and physical activity, but there are many other ways to tackle herniated disc problem successfully without opting for minimally invasive back surgery. Diet plays a role and it’s also useful to get spinal stimulation. Other forms of treatment such as massage, acupuncture etc. can help too.
There are quite a few accessories for mediation can really help your meditation success and herniated disc relief without opting for a surgical treatment. When meditating your environment can make a large impact on the success of your state of mind and achieving a deep state to promote healing and wellness.
If you are interested in more information on eating properly to aid in herniated disc treatment, this guide on eating right for a healthy back is a very nice start.
Author: Dr Robert Fink, is amongst the best orthopedic surgeons in Chicago, graduating from the Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine, Dr Fink has been practicing orthopedic surgery for over 30 years.