Typically, physicians will employ a physical exam including neurological exam, along with a patient’s history, to make a positive diagnosis. Imaging (e.g. MRI) is used to confirm the diagnosis. Fortunately, most cases of pain associated with herniated discs resolve with conservative strategies. Typically, this process takes weeks to months for resolution of symptoms to occur. During this healing time, non-opioid pain medications may be employed to assist in treatment. Medications may include NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, and oral steroids. Physical therapy and chiropractic care are also helpful. Lifestyle changes may also be implemented which include weight loss and exercise (e.g. core strengthening), which will help protect and stabilize the spine to reduce the pressure on the discs. Tobacco cessation is also important in individuals that utilize tobacco. Compelling evidence associates smoking to the degeneration of the disc.
In some cases, if your symptoms do not resolve, your physician may recommend surgical intervention. Surgeons can remove part of or the entire herniated disc to help relieve symptoms