Natural Remedies for a Herniated Disc in the BackPresentation Transcript
Natural Remedies for a Herniated Disc in the Back
Natural Remedies for a Herniated Disc in the Back A herniated disc in the back can cause patients to suffer from mild to severe localized pain as well as radiating symptoms of numbness, tingling, and/or muscle weakness. When you were diagnosed with a herniated disc, your physician likely recommended a regimen of conservative (nonsurgical) treatments such as pain medication, corticosteroid spine injections, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), among others. Many patients choose to utilize alternative therapies or natural remedies, either in conjunction with doctor-prescribed treatments or in lieu of them. If you are considering taking a natural approach to the treatment of your herniated back disc, you may benefit from learning more about the condition and the various alternative therapies that can be used to potentially eliminate your symptoms.
Herniated Disc Overview Intervertebral discs act as cushions in the neck and back and are positioned between most adjacent vertebrae (the bone structures that support and house the spinal cord). A tough, fibrocartilaginous exterior (annulus fibrosus) forms the outside shell of a disc and houses a gelatinous substance that contains suspended fibers (nucleus pulposus). It is the nucleus pulposus that allows discs to absorb the impact that is placed on our necks and backs when we bend, twist, walk, sit, stand, and perform various other movements. The nucleus pulposus is prone to dehydrating over time, gradually making the discs less and less able to perform their responsibilities. The annulus fibrosus is also likely to degrade as an individual ages, making it weaker and susceptible to tearing. A disc that has a ruptured annulus fibrosus through which the nucleus pulposus has escaped is referred to as a herniated disc. If a spinal nerve or the spinal cord comes into contact with the expelled inner disc material, neuropathic symptoms may appear in addition to the localized pain that is sometimes experienced when the annulus fibrosus develops a crack or a tear.
Pros and Cons of Natural Remedies While many alternative therapies have not received an official stamp of approval from the conventional medical community, some may still provide a number of benefits to those who suffer from a herniated back disc. Many alternative or natural therapies have been performed for several hundred years, before modern medicine was adopted as the typical course of treatment for most medical conditions. Since these therapies have been utilized for such an extended period of time, it’s safe to say that most side effects, risks, and dangers have already been identified. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employs a variety of techniques to determine the risks and side effects of traditional forms of medicine. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that some of these treatments have not been in use for a long enough period of time to determine their long-term effects. This is one of the many reasons that some individuals choose not to pursue alternative therapies for their herniated discs. However, some of the perceived benefits of natural remedies include:
No need for a prescription Many can be utilized from the comfort of one’s home Some may be more cost-effective than conventional treatments
Herbal Remedies One of the most popular alternative therapies for internal medical conditions (including a herniated back disc) is the use of herbs, vitamins, and dietary supplements. If you would like to incorporate this type of therapy into your treatment regimen, you may want to consult an herbal nutritionist to find the supplements that will provide you with optimal results. He or she may recommend one or more of the following herbs to relieve neurological symptoms, inflammation, and/or pain:
Slippery elm – may help to reduce inflammation White willow – may have anti-inflammatory properties and may also relieve pain St. John’s wort – may help to relieve neurological symptoms
Nearly all of these herbs have known drug interactions and may be harmful to certain individuals (pregnant women, for instance, should be very cautious about taking slippery elm). Be sure to consult your physician, pharmacist, or herbal nutritionist before beginning any type of herbal therapy.
Helpful Forms of Exercise Increasing the strength of the muscles in the neck and back can provide the spine with added support. This can help to relieve strain on some anatomical components of the spine, especially the intervertebral discs, and may also aid in relieving neural compression. Popular forms of exercise for those who suffer from a herniated back disc include:
Yoga – This type of exercise utilizes specific stretches, breathing techniques, and held poses to reduce tension and tone muscles. Pilates – This exercise program focuses on strengthening the body’s core muscles in the back and abdomen, which can have a significant impact on chronic back pain for some individuals.
As with all other types of exercise, be sure to consult your physician before you begin any regimen of physical activity.
Hot/Cold Therapy The use of cold compresses and/or heating pads is oftentimes incorporated into doctor-prescribed, conservative treatments. Because hot/cold therapy is also naturalistic, it is sometimes viewed as an alternative therapy. Placing a cold compress at the site of your herniated back disc can numb pain and reduce inflammation. Utilizing a heating pad can increase circulation to the area, helping to deliver nutrient-rich blood to the affected intervertebral disc. Ask your physician whether you would benefit most from using either hot or cold therapy or if alternating between the two would provide optimal results.
When Natural Remedies Aren’t Enough If you exclusively utilize alternative therapies for several weeks or months without receiving any benefits, it may be wise to switch to the conservative treatments your physician initially recommended. In the event that conservative treatments also prove ineffective, your doctor or spine specialist may recommend surgery.
During open spine surgery for a herniated back disc, the affected disc is removed in its entirety. The surgeon then installs a bone graft, intervertebral cage, and/or stabilizing hardware in the space that was once occupied by the intervertebral disc and the surrounding vertebrae eventually fuse together. This limits mobility in the affected area of the spine and oftentimes requires a lengthy hospital stay and a laborious rehabilitation.
You may qualify for a minimally invasive spine procedure instead of open spine surgery. These procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and utilize an endoscope and a very small incision to access the herniated disc. Only the portion of the disc that is causing neural compression is removed, eliminating the need for grafted bone material, fusion, or any type of hardware. Some patients experience immediate relief and most are able to return to daily activities within a matter of weeks.
If alternative therapies and conservative treatments aren’t providing you with significant pain relief, ask your doctor if you could benefit from undergoing surgery and find out if you qualify for a minimally invasive procedure. Before consenting to any operation, make sure you are 100 percent comfortable with all of the risks that are associated with it. You may want to seek a second or third opinion to ensure the proper diagnosis was initially formed, that all noninvasive treatments have been utilized, and that surgery is indeed warranted in your case.