Disc herniation is one of the common causes of back pain that brings patients to the spine specialists at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine. Because we are widely known for our noninvasive approaches to relieving back pain, patients come to us seeking treatments that will increase their comfort and mobility without surgery. Our disc herniation treatments include disc herniation physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation and swelling, analgesic medications to control pain, acupuncture, and epidural steroid injection therapy.
If you are suffering debilitating pain in your back, limbs, or extremities due to a herniated disc, you will be relieved to hear that 80 to 90 percent of patients with a new or recent acute disc herniation improve without surgery.
What is a herniated disc?
The nerves of the spinal cord branch out to deliver sensory and motor messages to the upper and lower limbs. Because the spinal cord is so crucial to sensation and mobility, it is protected by the bones of the spinal column, known as vertebrae. Between the vertebrae are gelatinous discs that serve as cushions. These discs are frequently described as “jelly donuts” because they are composed of a tough outer layer and a center filled with gel-like fluid.
The discs work remarkably well until they degenerate due to injury or aging. Once tears appear in their outer shell, their gelatinous material becomes displaced and escapes its natural boundaries. When this herniation occurs, the disc material compresses an exiting spinal nerve, causing severe pain, numbness, tingling or weakness that radiates down the arm or leg, depending upon which part of the spine has been affected.
If the herniation or rupture of the disc occurs in the upper (cervical) spine, one or both arms will be affected. If the nerve is pinched in the lower region of the spine (lumbar), the legs and/or buttocks will be affected. In either case, the resulting pain is known as radiculopathy or radicular pain, also known as “sciatica.”. At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our fellowship-trained physiatrists are well-equipped to treat disc herniation, even when previous doctors may have failed.
Causes of Disc Herniation
Although disc herniation is most often related to age-related wear and tear, known as disc degeneration, there may be a precipitating event that causes the actual rupture. Once your discs become less flexible and thinner, they are more prone to tearing due to strain when you do heavy lifting, overreach or twist your body in an awkward way. In some cases, an accident or assault may cause a disc herniation, but most discs herniate gradually over time. There is also evidence that the tendency to disc problems may be familial.
Diagnosis of Disc Herniation
The highly qualified physiatrists at Long Island Spine are familiar with all types of back pain and are well-prepared to diagnose disc herniation. Though we may suspect the problem from your symptoms, we will give you a thorough physical examination, including an evaluation of your spine and of your musculoskeletal and nervous system. We will also pay close attention to your medical history.
Depending on our initial findings, we may take X-rays to rule out a bone spur, compressed disc height, or a narrowing of the tunnels through which nerves travel (known as foramen), as well as obtain a CT or MRI scan that will show most disc herniations. In addition, we may perform a nerve conduction study (EMG) to find any signs of nerve damage resulting from a disc herniation or use diagnostic injections to pinpoint which nerve has been affected.
You can be confident in our diagnostic testing since every doctor at Long Island Spine is not only board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation as well as pain management, but is also either board-certified in Electrodiagnostic Medicine or board eligible for subspecialty certification in Neuromuscular Medicine. Also, our diagnostic equipment is cutting-edge, both in terms of technology and in terms of offering maximum patient comfort.
Long Island Spine Comprehensive Disc Herniation Treatments
Oriented as we are to using noninvasive treatments whenever possible, we are gratified that there are research studies showing that nonsurgical approaches may work as well, or even better, than back surgery in many cases.
We are also aware that no two cases of disc herniation are identical, so we tailor our treatments to your particular needs. Whichever treatments we determine are best for you, they will be designed to reduce inflammation and address mechanical injuries to reduce pain while using proven strategies to increase your strength and function. Our treatment methods include:
Disc Herniation Physical Therapy
Our therapists are certified by the McKenzie Institute and have in-depth knowledge of therapeutic techniques as well as extensive hands-on experience. We maintain ongoing contact with them to ensure progress and patient satisfaction. Disc herniation therapy may include ice and heat therapy, gentle massage, ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, pelvic traction, and stretching exercises.
Our goal is to lessen your pain level with the lowest dose of effective medication. Though we may prescribe more powerful anti-inflammatory agents initially for acute pain, we will work hard to use other treatments in conjunction so that your doses can be lessened and you can move down to less frequent use of NSAIDS as quickly as possible. Muscle relaxants can also be helpful in relieving pain and assisting with evening pain and sleep. We always take into account your medical history and any other medications you may be taking to avoid complications.
Our disc herniation treatments include several types of injections, sometimes given once and sometimes administered during a series of sequential visits. Our therapeutic injections include:
- Transforaminal selective epidural injections administered under fluoroscopic guidance
- Spinal epidural injections guided by fluoroscopic guidance
These injections of corticosteroid and a local anesthetic greatly reduce or eliminate pain by decreasing inflammation and compression on the spinal nerve.
Other Noninvasive Treatments
We also treat herniated discs with:
- Acupuncture (only available in our East Meadow and Great Neck offices)
- PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) to decrease pain by administering electromagnetic waves at different frequencies — especially helpful in cases of disc prolapse
When Surgery Is Necessary
We are committed to noninvasive disc herniation treatments wherever possible and the majority of our patients experience life-changing improvement. Nonetheless, we are aware that in some cases surgery may be necessary. We do not recommend surgical intervention lightly, but when an operation is required, we refer patients to well-credentialed surgeons with track records of success.
Contact Our Spine Specialists For Disc Herniation Treatment
The sooner you contact Long Island Spine the better since our disc herniation therapies are most effective when begun early. Don’t allow your condition to worsen and your pain to become unbearable. Take the first step toward relief and wellness by calling us or contacting us through our website.