Decision on treatment for degenerative disc disease is always difficult. There is a wide range of options available, including exercise, medications, physical modalities, injections, and surgery. Each case requires its own treatment to show improvement. This short article will provide you with the most basic views about choosing treatment for degenerative disc disease.
Non-Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation without Pain Relief
The standard treatment for degenerated disc in the low back is conservative (non-operative) treatment, even if patients experience a significant amount of pain.
The first step is to control the pain. Your doctor might recommend you to apply ice to relieve pain and heat to treat stiffness or warm up muscles. Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can handle inflammation and pain. Epidural steroid injections and alternative treatments (including chiropractic care or acupuncture) are also useful. In most of the cases, doctors use trial and error approach to identify the combination of pain management treatments that works best for their patients.
After the pain is under control, patients should take active exercise rehabilitation or physical therapy. Since exercise strengthens the back and degenerated disc and stimulates the flow of nutrients to the area, it is the only way to heal the body. Specific exercises are necessary to achieve this and need to be demonstrated and monitored by an appropriate therapist.
The final step is behavioral changing. Patients need to avoid activities that physically stress or twist the low back. Quitting cigarette should be considered because smoking deprives the disc of nutrients needed to maintain height and hydration. Some patients may also benefit from weight loss.
Uncontrollable, Severe Pain
When back pain does not respond to non-operative pain treatment, surgery should be considered. If a number of different pain management treatments and strategies do not show any improvement, and patients still describe their pain as persistent and functionally disabling, they should consult with their doctors about whether surgery should be considered. Symptoms such as foot drop or muscle weakness are good indicators that patients should consider a surgical consultation more promptly.
Disability or Severely Limited Everyday Functionality
The inability to do such everyday tasks may indicate that surgery is needed to try to restore an acceptable level of functionality and improve the patient’s quality of life.
For some patients, surgery may be considered before a full six months of non-surgical care centered on pain management and physical therapy has elapsed. It is rare, however, for there to be any lasting irreversible damage or other negative consequences due to delaying surgery for a degenerated lumbar disc, so the six-month guideline holds true for most people. This is not only because most patients do respond to non-operative care over time, but also because back surgery for lumbar degenerative disc disease is major procedures, with their attendant surgical risks and requirements for lengthy post-surgical rehabilitation.
Still, such decision is complex. Therefore you should always consult your doctor to have precise and professional advice.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: December 4, 2019 | Last Modified: December 4, 2019