Is non-surgical treatment effective for herniated disc ?


Most cases of herniated disc resolve on their own within 6 weeks, patients are often advised to start always with non-surgical treatment.

Controlling the intense pain in initial stage of herniated disc is the most urgent need. Pain control options are likely to include:

  • ICE application- Cold packs help in reducing inflammation and muscle spasm.
  • Pain medication- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen to treat pain and inflammation.
  • Muscle relaxant- muscle spasm may accompany a lumbar herniated disc.Muscle relaxant may offer relief from painful acute muscle spasm.
  • Heat therapy- after 48 hours moist heat can be helpful to reduce pain and spasm.
  • Bed rest- bed rest for severe pain is best at least for 2 to 3 days.
  • Epidural injection- An epidural steroid injection is intended to provide enough pain relief for the patients to make progress with rehabilitation.
  • Physical therapy- stretching and strengthening exercises can help to reduce pain and help in fast recovery from herniated disc along with the exercises, teach the patient safer ways to perform ordinary activities such as sitting, walking and lifting.
  • Spinal manipulations- may also ease pain and provide a better healing environment.
  • Traction/non-surgical decompression- it helps to decompress the spine and nerves. Very helpful in radiating disc pain.
  • Acupuncture/dry needling- again a method to relieve pain.
  • Cognitive behaviour therapy- CBT helps people control and change self-defeating behaviours.
  • Massage therapy- can ease the back pain by increasing blood circulation, relaxing muscles and releasing the endorphins(natural pain relievers).

So, finally I would say yes, non-surgical treatments are very effective in treatment of herniated disc and it must be a first line of treatment, if it fails then we should think about other surgical options.