When Is the Right Time to Seek Treatment for a Herniated Disc?

If you have back pain, it can be tough to decide when to throw in the towel and visit a medical professional. When will the conservative treatment methods like gentle exercise and over-the-counter pain medication be enough? Where do you draw the line?

Many patients suffering from a herniated disc face this very problem. The injury can sometimes be minor and easily treatable, but other times, a herniated disc requires surgery to prevent serious and permanent nerve damage. Here are a few tips to help you decide when it’s the right time to seek treatment for your herniated disc.

What Is a Herniated Disc and How Do I Remedy it at Home?

Before you decide to see a doctor, it’s important to understand herniated discs and why they occur. Sometimes called slipped or ruptured discs, herniated discs are extremely common and most often affect people aged 35 to 55.

The spine is made up of a series of individual bones called vertebrae that are stacked to form the spinal column. Between the vertebrae are intervertebral discs that essentially serve as cushioning pads. They have a soft, jellylike center encased in a tougher, rubbery exterior and act as shock absorbers for the body and spine. When pressure from the vertebrae forces some of the nuclei through a weakened or torn part of the hard exterior, it can press against the nerves near the disc. This can result in numbness and severe pain.

If you think you’ve suffered a herniated disc, there are a few home remedies that you can try:

  • Relieving inflammation: Applying a heating pad or ice pack to the affected area often works well. Also consider lying down flat on your stomach with one or two pillows under your hips for 20 minutes a day.
  • Over-the-counter medicine: In the case of minor-to-moderate pain, try over-the-counter pain medications like Advil and Tylenol
  • Exercising: Carefully exercising may also help relieve some of your pain by reducing pressure on the spine. Always consult a doctor for a list of appropriate exercises for your specific injury. Not doing so could result in further damage.

The Herniated Disc Symptoms That Necessitate a Visit to the Doctor

As a broad rule of thumb, if your herniated disc pain isn’t responding to medication and rest, it’s probably time to seek the advice of a specialist. It’s always better to be overly cautious than to suffer additional damage because you didn’t take the proper precautions. Any pain that’s new, intense, and generally worrisome should warrant a check-up with the doctor. An experienced spine specialist will be able to effectively diagnose and treat your condition.

If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, it’s probably a good time to seek medical attention:

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Loss of feeling in your legs and feet
  • Pain and numbness on one side of the body
  • Back discomfort that that extends to your arms and legs
  • Pain that worsens at night, after standing or sitting, or with certain movements
  • Unexplained muscle weakness
  • Tingling, aching, or burning sensations in the affected area

Generally, discomfort from a herniated disc occurs in the lower part of your backbone, just above your hips, and spreads from your back to your legs, thighs, and calves. Pain typically worsens when you’re being active, but sometimes even seemingly minor movements can be uncomfortable, such as coughing, sneezing, and sitting.

Herniated discs can occur at any age, but they’re most common in adults aged 35 to 55, and factors like weight, genetics, and occupation can play a factor. Likewise, lifting heavy objects improperly, smoking, performing repetitive and strenuous movements, and putting sudden pressure on the spine can be the culprit of a herniated disc.

Treatment from a specialist can vary widely depending on many factors including your medical history and level of overall discomfort. Sometimes, patience and time are all it takes to remedy a mild herniated disc, but in more serious cases, surgery is required. Your doctor will best be able to dictate what approach is right for you based on the specifics of your injury.

Visit the Experts at New Jersey Spine and Orthopedic

If you’ve suffered a herniated disc—or if you feel pain in your back and are unsure of its diagnosis or how to treat it—consider the trusted medical professionals at NJ Spine and Orthopedic. Our experienced and board-certified neurologists, neurosurgeons, orthopedic specialists, and physicians will talk with you one-on-one about your specific injury or condition and treatment options that are right for you. We’ll always start with conservative methods before recommending surgery. Our team focuses on minimally invasive techniques that will reduce your pain and encourage faster recovery times.

Our medical team can help treat your herniated disc, relieve you of your pain, and get you on the road to recovery. If you think you may have suffered a herniated disc but are unsure the cause of your pain, take our free online Pain Assessment. If you know your condition but want to discover the appropriate treatment options, consider utilizing ourTreatment Finder. Otherwise, give us a call at (866) 272-9271 or complete our contact form today!