Cervical herniated disc treatment generally follows the conservative, symptom-based parameters of all other intervertebral disc care practices. Most patients undertake a plethora of nonsurgical therapy options, which do little to provide lasting relief, and then endure an escalation of treatments into progressively more drastic and invasive modalities. It is not uncommon for patients to eventually give in to surgical intervention, despite the poor prognosis for positive treatment outcomes and the many risks associated with spinal operations in the neck.
While it is impossible to characterize every possible treatment regimen for herniated discs in the neck, the following article describes the average patient experience, from initial diagnosis to application of the most hazardous forms of therapy.
Conservative, noninvasive therapy options generally include the use of both traditional and complementary medical treatments:
Chiropractic and massage are the most popular types of care in the complementary medical arena and drugs and physical therapy are the most often utilized treatments in the traditional medical sector.
There are many other varieties of nonsurgical disc pain treatment that are geared towards minimizing the symptoms enacted by intervertebral pathologies, rather than act on curing the disc injury itself. Some of these less popular symptomatic therapies include: acupuncture, acupressure, reiki, Rolfing, Bowen therapy, hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, bed-ridden spinal traction, inversion, magnetic therapy, homeopathy, Ayurveda and TCM.
One of the biggest complaints we have with conservative care is that patients are rarely informed of the purely symptom-based nature of the provided therapies. Most patients expect a cure and begin to suffer increasing stress when their pain is still present after years of costly treatment.
Frustration typically sets in after 3 or more failed methods of therapy, making the patients complain to their care provider that they need to find permanent relief soon. This usually means that more drastic measures will soon replace the ongoing symptom-targeted treatment.
Moderate therapy options include the very common use of all manner of injection treatments and the more enlightened spinal decompression therapy.
Injection therapy generally consists of the use of anesthetic and steroid epidurals that are given into the painful region of the neck. Some patients attempt alternative types of injectable care, including prolotherapy, Botox and ozone discolysis. Epidural injections represent invasive symptomatic care and are known for only being effective for very short time periods before their potential positive effects wear off, leaving the patient right back where they began: in pain.
While modern spinal depression therapy is not indicated for every neck pain condition, it can be very effective at permanently resolving many disc issues in a limited time frame and for a finite financial cost. Decompression is most effectual for contained herniations that are blamed for enacting spinal or foraminal stenosis in a limited area of the cervical spinal anatomy.
Herniated disc surgery is the most invasive option and there are many different types of procedures available. We do not generally recommend surgical intervention for virtually any disc-pain patient, due to its significant health risk factors and its poor curative results. Therefore, we typically advise herniated disc sufferers to leave surgical interventions until the situation becomes a matter of life or death. However, this is not an absolute rule, since some specific patient case profiles allow for easy resolution of verified disc pathologies using the least invasive operative practices.
Full surgical endeavors include the most common discectomy, which is sometimes used in combination with other techniques, including laminectomy, to resolve larger-scale pain conditions.
Spinal fusion is often performed after many curative procedures, in order to stabilize vertebral levels that were permanently damaged during the operation.
Less invasive surgical endeavors might be curative or symptom-based. Curative methods of care include IDET and nucleoplasty, while symptom-based surgeries include neurotomy, cryoanalgesia, spinal cord stimulation and various methods of nerve blocking, such as radiofrequency lesioning.
Synthetic disc-replacement surgery might be indicated for some patients and demonstrates better results than discectomy and fusion. However, there are still many complications reported from virtually every variety of artificial spinal disc prosthesis, so health risks are inherent with this procedure.
Most accurately diagnosed neck pain patients will find a permanent cure using an appropriate therapy plan. For patients who do not find this cure, the usual problem is not the ineffectiveness of the treatments attempted, but instead, is likely to involve simple misdiagnosis of the causative condition. Remember that any type of cervical disc therapy will not work well if it is not aimed at the correct source of pain. This is logical from any scientific point of view.
Patients seeking care must understand the crucial difference between curative methods of treatment and purely symptom-targeting therapies. While managing pain is fine in the short-term, finding resolution for the underlying source of pain is far preferred over an extended timeline.