Ruptured Disc Treatment and Recovery
Working as shock absorbers between your large vertebral bones, spinal discs are found throughout the spinal column in your back including your cervical spine. Your spinal discs are vital to the everyday comfort and functionality of your spine. If your spinal column becomes injured due to acute trauma or gradually over time and these cushioning discs begin to protrude out, they can put pressure on neighboring spinal nerves. This is known as a ruptured disc.
Ruptured Disc Pain
Ruptured discs in the lumbar or sacrum are a common cause of a condition known as sciatica, in which a shooting pain travels down the back of your legs due to pressure on a spinal nerve. Sciatica can also manifest itself in a tingling feeling in the leg or foot, or weakness in the leg.
In many cases, disc rupture symptoms go away on their own after a month or so, but if the problem persists, there are treatment options to help.
Ruptured Disc Treatment
Though many cases of back pain and sciatica due to ruptured discs get better on their own, symptoms can be long-lasting for others. If you’re experiencing new pain from a ruptured disc or a flare-up of an old injury, there are surgical and nonsurgical treatment options available.
Before surgery is considered, the following nonsurgical treatments may help relieve your ruptured disc symptoms:
- Applying ice to the affected area to help numb nerves and reduce discomfort, then heating the area afterwards to help reduce tightness in your back muscles
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), naproxen, acetaminophen, or aspirin
- Stay active by walking around as much as is comfortable throughout the day, and stick to your usual daily activities as much as possible
- Physical therapy, stretching, or massage can help relieve pain while your back heals on its own
Severe back pain coupled with a shooting pain down one or both legs is a strong indicator of a ruptured disc. Back and sciatica pain that continues for three months or longer is considered a chronic condition, and a higher level of care should be considered at this point for your ruptured disc.
Anti-inflammatory steroid injections go a long way towards providing pain relief, and can do so for months at a time. However, there are limits on the number of injections you can receive, and they do not eliminate the need for surgery.
The most common surgical procedure for addressing a ruptured disc is a discectomy. This has your surgeon remove part of the ruptured disc so it stops pressing on your spinal nerve. This is typically carried out in an outpatient setting, though it may vary depending on your specific situation.
Most cases of ruptured discs see significant improvement within a month. Following the acute pain right after injury of flare-up, expect the pain to gradually subside.
In the event of surgery, you can expect a period of time between two to six weeks before you are able to return to your normal daily activities, including work. You should avoid lifting heavy weight, bending, or sitting for long periods of time during recovery.
The back and neck specialists at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine are here to help you with both back and sciatica pain due to a ruptured disc and we are adept at the latest surgical and nonsurgical methods. You may request an appointment online or call at (904) 825-0540 to make an appointment.
BRIAN HAYCOOK, MD
Board Certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Haycook has specific expertise in the latest treatment of spine related injuries.