Surgery is not always the first choice of treatment of a slipped disc, also known as herniated disc. In fact, very few people require the aid of surgery to manage the condition.
The spine is formed by the stack up of individual bones known as vertebrae (24 of them). These bones have a space that separates them from each other and this space is filled with rubbery cushions, which are known as discs. These are circular pads of cartilage that comprise a softer center consisting of a gel-like substance and a tough exterior. It is the presence of these discs that makes the spine flexible, and protects the vertebrae by cushioning them when jumping or running.
Now, because of certain causes, the tough outer covering of one of the discs cracks, causing the jelly to bulge and protrude outwards between the vertebrae. This condition is known as slipped disc, or herniated disc. This can trigger back pain, and pain in other areas of the body due to pressed spinal nerves. However, in some cases, people do not experience any such symptoms whatsoever. When we speak of surgery, it is not often the first line of treatment. Most people do well and get better within a month or two by merely following the conservative treatment methods which include medications, and dedicated exercises to minimize the pain of the herniated disk.
Slipped Disc Treatment
To repeat what has been cited above, surgery is not the first choice when it comes to the treatment of a herniated disc. Doctors typically find that out of 100 people having a herniated disc, a mere 10 of them are deemed to be eligible for a surgery. So experts have listed out certain factors, depending on which, the necessity of a surgery for an individual can be ascertained. So, a surgery may be advised:
- if the doctor diagnoses that the problem is causing or has caused severe compression of the nerves. This may occur in a situation wherein, the ruptured disc gets lodged to the spinal cord.
- if the problem is keeping the patient from performing his daily chores, especially those which require walking and standing.
- if the patient is also found positive of experiencing a case of deteriorating weakness or abnormal changes in his/her bladder functions.
- if all conservative treatments fail to provide the desirable results, then surgery remains as the last resort.
After determining all these factors, the surgeon may proceed with the surgery. Commonly, the surgery aims to get rid of the portion of the disc that is bulging out. However, for some people, the entire disc may be done away with, although such situations are a rarity. The surgical procedure can be implemented in many ways, some of which may include:
- One procedure known as ‘open discectomy’ involves removal of the slipped disc entirely or partially. Here, the surgeon operates a site in the spine, and does the surgery. The patient would be kept under anesthesia.
- Another type of slipped disc surgery procedure but requiring less incisions is known as endoscopic laser surgery. Here, a small incision is made in the spine in order to place an endoscope (a medical device (tube) with a long slender body, with a light source and camera at one end). So using this device the surgeon locates the herniated disc and the area of the nerve compressed, which has been causing the pain. Thereafter, the nerve is released, and part of the disc is gotten rid of with the help of a laser.
To add to this, if the entire disc is removed, then the surgeon may use a metal hardware to make a fusion between the vertebrae, as this is necessary for spinal stability. Alternatively, a prosthetic disc may be used to replace the slipped disc. Speaking of self care measures, taking over-the-counter pain killers, using cold therapy (to reduce pain and inflammation) or heat therapy (to relieve tensed muscles), and avoiding frequent bed rest, helps hasten recovery time, which is generally four to six weeks. Take care!