Herniated Disk Treatments

Specific treatment for a herniated disk will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history
  • Extent of the condition
  • Type of condition
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

Typically, conservative therapy is the first line of treatment with a herniated disk. This may include a combination of the following:

  • Bed rest
  • Patient education on proper body mechanics (to help decrease the chance of worsening pain or damage to the disk)
  • Physical therapy, which may include ultrasound, massage, conditioning and exercise programs
  • Weight control
  • Use of a lumbosacral back support
  • Medications to control pain and/or to relax muscles

When these conservative measures fail, surgery for removal of your herniated disk may be recommended. There are a number of surgeries for herniated disks, including:

  • Discectomy: Surgical removal or partial removal of a disk
  • Laminectomy: Surgical removal of most of the lamina (bony arch) of a vertebra
  • Lumbar laminectomy: An opening in a lamina to relieve pressure on the nerve root, often used to relieve sciatica or leg pain caused by a herniated disk
  • Artificial disk surgery: Replacement of a lumbar disk with a manufactured disk. Only a few patients are eligible for this procedure, based on their fitness, lack of success with other treatment options, and the location of the herniated disk (between L4 and L5 or L5 and S1).
  • Spinal fusion: The grafting of bone onto the spine to create a solid bond between two or more vertebrae, sometimes supported by screws and rods
  • Cervical spine surgery: Removal of the damaged disk, sometimes with the addition of a cervical plate and screws or the use of spinal fusion to support the spine

After surgery, your activities may be restricted for several weeks while you heal, to prevent another disk herniation. Your surgeon will discuss any restrictions with you.

Talk to your physician about these and new experimental therapies being used to treat a herniated disk.