Herniated Disc Diagnosis and Treatments

Man experiencing back pain

Lower back pain can change your life—and unfortunately, not for the better. It can cause you to lose time at work, stop participating in a favorite sport, or even make it difficult to enjoy a simple dinner out. Take a moment now to read about the diagnosis and treatment of herniated discs.

A spinal disc problem may be causing your back pain—and you can feel better.

Understanding Herniated Discs & Degenerative Disc Problems

A herniated or ruptured disc, or other degenerative disc problem, commonly causes this pain. Discomfort occurs when a herniated disc leaves spinal nerves unprotected and prone to irritation.

You can read here about the causes, symptoms, and how to reduce the risk of developing a herniated disc.

A man in severe back pain getting medical care for a herniated disc

Should You See a Doctor About Your Back Pain?

Lower back pain is a common complaint. The Mayo Clinic reports back pain as one of the top three reasons people seek medical care.

A herniated disc can cause continuous and severe, or less frequent and milder, pain. In fact, if a herniated disc isn’t pressing on a nerve, it may not cause any pain at all.

When your back pain lasts for several weeks, or interferes with your normal basic activities, it’s time to see a doctor for a diagnosis.

However, if you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately:

  • Severe back pain
  • Pain that extends beyond the back
  • Sudden back pain caused by an accident
  • Fever
  • New leg weakness or paralysis
  • Changes in bowel or bladder function
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Prior cancer diagnosis
  • Pain is worse in certain positions or at certain times
Person with back pain with a doctor who is explaining the diagnosis using a model of a spinal column

How Is a Herniated Disc Diagnosed?

Often a doctor can diagnose a herniated disc during a basic patient’s visit. The exam will include:

  • A physical exam to determine back tenderness
  • A neurological exam to determine muscle strength, walking ability, nerve sensitivity

Sometimes, the doctor will request additional tests to make sure there aren’t other reasons for back pain or to confirm diagnosis.

These imaging tests include:

  • X-rays and CT scans to rule out other issues, including broken bones, spinal alignment issues, or tumors
  • MRI to confirm the diagnosis of a herniated disc, locate the herniated disc, and find pinched nerves
  • Myelogram to pinpoint the location of pressure or nerve damage on the spinal cord

Treatment For a Herniated Disc

Once it’s determined you have a herniated disc, treatment options can vary.

Often people are concerned their back pain automatically means they need back surgery. This is not a worry you need to have. There are many other treatment options for ruptured or degenerative disc problems.

Some people greatly benefit from these treatments while others do not. Your doctor will let you know which treatments should work best for you.

Herniated Discs May Respond to Rest and TLC

Rest is a first-line treatment for a herniated disc. Heat and massage therapy may help, too.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other stress reduction techniques can help manage pain when a disc problem flares up.

Man with physical therapist working on a core strengthening therapy to help ease lower back pain

Physical Therapy and Acupuncture

If rest isn’t doing the trick, and pain persists, physical therapy or acupuncture may provide the relief you need.

Physical therapy will strengthen your core which often eases spine-related pain.


Sometimes a patient will need medication to help manage pain. While rest and other stress reduction techniques often are helpful, they don’t always provide enough relief. Depending on the problem, they may not even provide any relief at all.

Each patient has different pain, and their ability to handle it varies.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs often reduce lower back pain. A doctor may suggest them for management of chronic back pain.

When these drugs aren’t helpful, there are other pain medications that may be prescribed for pain reduction.

Corticosteroid Epidural Injections

Corticosteroid epidural injections, or nerve block injections, go directly into your spine. The treatment reduces nerve swelling and inflammation. The reduced swelling canlessen or even stop pain and help your body heal faster.

Radiofrequency Denervation

This invasive procedure involves the insertion of a needle into the patient’s back. An electrical current created by radio waves heats the needle. The heat from the needle subsequently destroys spinal nerve endings and the pain transmission stops.

Back Surgery

A doctor may recommend surgery after other treatments are tried but don’t provide adequate relief.

Back surgeries can involve:

  • Removal of some of the bone near the herniated disc to enlarge the spinal canal and prevent nerve irritation
  • Replacement of a damaged disc with an artificial one
  • Removal of a herniated disc to prevent irritation of nearby spinal nerves
  • Fusion of two or more vertebrae together to stabilize and strengthen the spine

Regenerative Medicine Treatment Using Stem Cells Is an Alternative to Surgery

Stem cell therapy is an important regenerative medicine treatment that is effective for herniated discs and other spinal conditions.It is a low-risk outpatient procedure that can be an alternative to invasive surgery.

Stem cell therapy uses a patient’s own stem cells, combined with other healing agents, to promote maximized healing.Treatments can repair disc damage, rehydrate a disc, and ease chronic pain.

If you are experiencing back pain, contact us at Neuro Wellness to learn more about this exciting treatment option as an alternative to disc surgery.

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