When you're diagnosed with a herniated disc, your doctor's first approach will probably be to send you in for physical therapy. For many patients, one to two years of physical therapy effectively treats the problem so they don't end up having to resort to surgery. But what will your physical therapist have you do during that year? Take a look.
Hot and Cold Therapy
Early on in your treatment, your physical therapist will probably implement hot and cold treatments in their office and also recommend that you do these treatments at home. Hot treatments, which typically just involve holding a heating pad against your back, help increase blood flow to the area to bring healing oxygen and nutrients to the cells. Cold treatments help reduce inflammation, which reduces muscle spasms and alleviates pain. Cold treatments are basically icing sessions.
This is another procedure that is implemented early on but then used continually throughout your treatment process. TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Basically, your physical therapist will place two electrodes on your back, near the injured area. These electrodes will send little impulses into the nerves, which will help release muscle tension in the area so that the herniated disc has more "space" to heal. TENS also helps temporarily relieve back pain. Some physical therapists will send you home with your own TENS device to use daily.
Once the initial pain and inflammation are reduced via hot and cold therapies and TENS, your physical therapist may put you in traction. Basically, this means they'll have you lie down with your legs and arms in holders. They'll then gently pull on your arms and legs to flatten your back out and create a little more room between your vertebrae, which will help the herniated disc slip back in. This may be done weekly. It can be a little uncomfortable but is not overtly painful.
Finally, your physical therapist will teach you some exercises to help strengthen your core muscles. With better support from the muscles in your abdomen, sides, and back, there will be less pressure on your injured disc, which will allow it to rest and heal. These exercises will start off easy, and as you progress, your physical therapist will teach you more demanding ones. If you want to recover, doing these exercises at home, as prescribed, is key.
With physical therapy, many patients with slipped discs are able to recover without surgery. Good luck!
To learn more about your physical therapy treatment options, contact a doctor.
I was badly injured a year ago, and it took a long time to get back to my normal level of ability. One of the things that helped more than anything was the time that I spent in physical therapy. I didn’t always love going to physical therapy – in fact, sometimes, I really didn’t enjoy it at all. But ultimately, the therapists and other patients I worked with helped inspire me to get better, and the exercises facilitated my healing process. I started this blog to talk about all of the things I learned about physical therapy and healing during my recovery time. I hope my blog reaches other accident victims. I want to offer encouragement, hope, and information for people who are in the same boat that I was in.