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A herniated disc in your lower back is no laughing matter. An acute herniation can literally stop you in your tracks. If you find yourself suffering from a lower (lumbar) disc herniation, it can be debilitating and painful, throwing your busy and active lifestyle into a tailspin.

Luckily, the last few decades have seen great advances in the treatment and subsequent management of herniated discs. This is why it’s important to understand your treatment options before making a final decision on which route to go.

What Is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc in the lower back is a disc that becomes damaged, often through trauma of some sort. These discs are somewhat “rubbery” structures that sit between each vertebra in the spine. They work to cushion the impact between the bones, provide flexibility and protect the nerve structures within the spine. Each disc has a dense outer portion and a soft center, known as the nucleus pulposus. When the nucleus pulposus ruptures, it is known as a “slipped,” or herniated, disc. This damaged portion can press on the nerves causing numbness and tingling, lower back pain, sciatica, weakness or a combination of symptoms.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

There are many non-surgical options for treating a herniated disc in the lower back. Unfortunately, these don’t always alleviate the pain and debilitating symptoms that accompany a herniated disc. These treatments include:

  • Physical therapy: The main premise is to strengthen the muscular structures around the affected area(s) in order to remove strain from the offending disc. It also works toward better posture and more efficient bodily movements.
  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often effective for short-term relief of associated pain and inflammation caused by herniated disc in the lower back.
  • Oral steroids: This form of medication is used to reduce the body’s inflammatory response and lessen swelling that happens in the body.
  • Corticosteroid injections: These shots are a more targeted steroid use that is frequently injected into or near the injury site.
  • Chiropractic treatment: Osteo-manipulation can correct misalignment of the spine, which in turn allows pressure to be taken off of the affected nerves.

If you’ve already explored non-surgical methods for treating a herniated disc in your lower back without success, it’s time to consider surgical intervention as a permanent solution.

Surgical Treatment Options

You may be curious about the different types of surgeries available for treating a herniated disc in your lower back. There are several surgical options available for those who suffer from herniated discs. When you’ve exhausted all your other options, it’s wise to educate yourself on the different procedures used to alleviate impinged nerve pain. Here is a rundown of the most common procedures.

Open Surgery

Open surgery is conducted by creating a relatively large incision and dissecting all the overlying muscles and soft tissues in the region of the offending disc. For many years, lumbar laminectomy was the procedure of choice for most nerve impingement complaints.

This surgery, also known as “open decompression,” is still frequently used for lumbar spinal stenosis. It is less frequently recommended for herniated discs thanks to the advancement of less invasive procedures.

Minimally Invasive Spine (MIS) Microdiscectomy

MIS has become more and more popular for successfully treating herniated discs in the lower back. The advantages it has over traditional spine surgery are varied. The most important advantage is the quicker recovery time and less invasive nature. But what exactly makes this procedure less invasive? The surgeon performing the procedure will use the natural ability of the muscles to stretch in order to move them out of way and access the offending site.

This, in turn, minimizes the damage and trauma associated with traditional surgery, in which the muscle is burned off the bone. Only a portion of the disc is removed, which alleviates pressure on the nerve and often results in nearly instant relief. With shorter recovery times and less trauma to the body, this is a great option for those looking to be able to resume their busy lifestyles as soon as possible.


The decision as to which procedure would be most beneficial to you is one that needs to be made by you and your surgeon. Surgery is not a one-size-fits-all undertaking; there are many factors that make you a better candidate for certain procedures. Being armed with the knowledge of all your available options will allow you to make an informed choice that is most appropriate for your needs and lifestyle.

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