Herniated discs are a common spinal condition affecting roughly 3% of the U.S. population every year. The condition can cause an array of symptoms depending on the location of the injured disc and the severity.
While most cases of herniated discs can be managed with conservative treatments like medication and physical therapy, some cases require more targeted interventions. One of these treatment options is spinal injections, which involve a targeted steroid injection directly into the affected area. The injection is mainly used to decrease inflammation, relieve symptoms and return function.
We spoke with Dr. Gregory Arends, who specializes in spinal injection procedures and conservative medical management of spinal disorders at CU Medicine Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation – Longmont, about how these treatments work for herniated discs.
“People think that it takes something relatively heroic to herniate a disk, like lifting an engine block out of a car. That’s absolutely not the case. You can herniate a disk by a simple sneeze,” warns Dr. Arends.
The good news is that 85%-95% of the patient population with herniated discs can be treated conservatively.
The first line treatments for most herniated discs are medication and physical therapy. When those treatments don’t work, someone like Dr. Arends, who is a spinal injectionist, intervenes to mostly bring down the inflammation of the spinal nerves. “If I can’t get the patient better, or if there is profound weakness or red flag warnings that suggest the spinal cord is compressed, then they would go in for surgical evaluation or even emergent surgery,” explains Dr. Arends.
Herniated disc risk factors
While no one is immune from herniating a disc, there are some risk factors that increase someone’s likelihood of injuring their spine.
- Athletes and those with occupations where the spine is impacted
- Sedentary lifestyle
Caring for your spine after healing from a herniated disc
A ruptured disc is considered an acute injury and patients should treat it as such. Along with proper medical treatment, patients should:
- Maintain core strength as the best protection of the spine
- Strengthen neck muscles, making sure to not have a forward chin posture
- Maintaining good overall posture
- Continue regular physical therapy
Living with a herniated disc can be painful and Dr. Arends wants patients to know he and the providers at CU Medicine Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation - Longmont are here to help. Learn more and schedule an appointment here.