Non-operative Herniated Cervical Disc Treatment
After determining the severity of your condition, your doctor will advise you regarding forms of treatment. Conservative methods, involving activity modification, pain medication, and physical therapy, are normally pursued as a first course of treatment. The majority of disc herniations (90%) do not require surgery, and will resolve with conservative, nonoperative treatment. Features of conservative treatment typically include:
- Resting the neck area by maintaining a comfortable posture and painless activity level for period of a few days to several weeks, sometimes using a cervical collar or neck brace.
- Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (for example ibuprofen or naproxen).
- An epidural steroid injection may be performed in cases of severe pain, utilizing a spinal needle under X-ray guidance to direct the medication to the exact level of the disc herniation.
- A physical therapist may develop a course of rehabilitation based on modes of treatment known to be beneficial to herniated disc patients, including exercises, traction, ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, and whirlpool treatment.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to decrease swelling and relieve pain. Sometimes time-released medication is most effective. While other painkillers may be prescribed, narcotic pain medication (for example, oxycodone or hydrocodone) is generally avoided.
Patients who have a severe episode of pain may benefit from a single treatment of an epidural steroid, injected directly into the affected part of the cervical spine. This form of treatment can often relieve the symptoms to such a degree that other treatment measures can then be comfortably performed.