If you have back pain from an inter-vertebral disc injury, there are pain alleviation treatments that can be applied to heal sooner than later. Unfortunately, too many who suffer inter-vertebral disc injuries believe the only way to alleviate the pain is through pharmaceuticals and surgery. I’m here to tell you, long term drug use and surgery is not the only solution. There are other treatment options under a doctor’s care that may avoid surgery.
If you have compromised a vertebral disc space, one way to alleviate the pain may be surgical intervention. However, to understand the inter-vertebral compromise and severity of internal damage and best treatment course, It is first necessary to define and differentiate between a torn, herniated, slipped or ruptured disc or some other insidious cause of pain. Through this understanding it is easier to decide on a pain management and medical treatment plan that is right for you.
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A torn disc is defined as a rupture in the exterior layer of an inter-vertebral disc between the vertebrae. Rupturing means the jellylike interior of a disc seeps through the tear and enters the spinal canal. A herniated, or ruptured disc is often referred to as a slipped disc, whereas the discs in the back have been compromised between articulating vertebrae. The disc function is to act as a soft and spongy cushion between each vertebra to protect the bone as movement occurs. If a disc happens to herniate beyond a bulge and ruptures, surgery often follows. A slipped disc is a very painful event and difficult to pain manage without proper treatment. In many cases, if treated appropriately – natural healing occurs and surgery is not needed.
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How does a vertebra disc slip? If enough pressure is applied to the center of the disc it can cause disc trauma by way of slipping one way or the other off center of vertebral alignment. When this happens, pressure is then pushed against one or more spinal nerves that become pinched and swell underlying tissue which cause varying levels of pain. Other painful conditions and symptoms that often result from a slipped disc: weakness, tingling or numbness in the neck and arms and/or legs, etc.
There is multiple back pain alleviation treatment applications that include non-invasive back pain relief products and techniques and don’t further aggravate compromised nerve endings. If you now experience a chronic back pain condition and all non-surgical treatment applications have failed – surgery may be necessary… which may or may not make you pain free… because of post-surgery soft tissue damage that aggravates nerve endings. Therefore surgery should be the last option to resolve back pain. If you’re having a tough time making a decision on how to manage your back pain or determine if surgery is right for you… ask your primary physician to refer you to a physiatrist [doctor that specializes in pain management], concurrent with an orthopedic back surgeon.
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Physiatrists are medical doctors that specialize in the whole-body, mind and spirit [encompassing being] and offer other holistic and alternative pain alleviation treatment and therapy options to remove acute and chronic pain, whereas surgery may not be needed.
It must be recognized each person has a varying level of pain threshold and/or pain tolerance. Meaning one pain management program may be tolerated by one client but not the other – even when injuries are similar. For example, patient 1 may be able to tolerate a higher level of pain when beginning a pain management program compared to patient 2 – Even when both patience shares a similar pain and lifestyle story. But patient 2 ends up opting for surgery because of intolerable chronic pain before and after therapy. Pain sensitivities and threshold and treatment therapy options in my opinion are best managed by a referring physiatrist to other pain management specialists.
If a physiatrist recommends acupuncture at any juncture within the pain management process, I do have personal experience with this treatment. Japanese and Chinese acupuncture removed 75% of my pain – whereas nothing else worked for me outside of medication.
I have multiple intravertebral disc injuries that have resulted in more than one referral to surgery over the last 30 years. To date, I have not had one back surgery and am nearly pain free. I can only share my personal experience and how acupuncture worked for me and may work for you.
I’ve experienced both Japanese and Chinese acupuncture [yes, they are different in technique]. It was the Chinese acupuncture that worked best for me. The Japanese acupuncture was a painful process because of my pain intolerance to it… . Regardless, I tolerated 12 sessions. The treatment was highly successful at rerouting nerve pain and eliminating it. After 6 months of Japanense acupuncture treatment, I opted for Chinese acupuncture [less pain aggravation during needle insert] to finish off the total treatment course. It is more likely than not your health insurance covers this form of pain therapy treatment.
I must state upfront, I did not have a ruptured disc. I have had herniated, bulging and slipped discs. I have also suffered a broken back through military service and have degenerative disc disease. The degenerative process causes a slow ooze of the inner gel out of disc through time. This gel loss puts pressure on spinal nerves by way of narrowing of disc thickness, or space between vertebrae (cushion narrowing) as well as bulging disc pain that flares up occasionally. Although my back condition is aggravating and varies in pain acutely, it is manageable through exercise. I am free of pain killers and only use anti-inflammatories when necessary.
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Acupuncture did wonders for me in terms of rerouting compromised disc and nerve pain. When I do slip and/or aggravate those discs infrequently… , the pain is less severe and can be managed without pain killing medication. Typically, I rest for a day should this occur and then continue walking daily and perform strength building exercises on alternate days. If pain increases beyond an acceptable pain threshold and becomes chronic, I would seek another course of Chinese acupuncture to alleviate the pain. My goal is to avoid surgery. To date, I have been successful at achieving that goal.
For the remainder of my life, I’ll have to manage back pain through a combination of exercise and other noninvasive therapy strategies after back aggravation. Fortunately, my pain is manageable with little physician intervention. Does this mean I will never need back surgery? No, it does not. Currently, I am managing an acceptable level of pain and sustain good physical fitness and functionality and I’m thankful for my good fortune.
Inter-vertebra disc pain may heal “substantially” on its own if you isolate and tolerate a minimal amount of pain during physical therapy and other pain alleviation treatment practises. If you have chronic and unrelenting pain, you may need surgery as a corrective healing course. Your physicians can help you determine what medical and pain management treatment course is right for you.
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If your back pain is more acute than chronic… and your physician recommends physical therapy and medication – take that advise and accept and work through the treatment course. However, requesting referrals for pain killers as a long-term or permanent solution to alleviate pain does not address the real problem… especially if there is a treatment course you can take without more pills and surgery.
If surgery cannot be avoided, I would only accept the advisement of a physiatrist working with an orthopedic back specialist where both recommend surgical intervention as the best course of action to live the lifestyle you need, want and deserve.
Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2021 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @: www.mirrorathlete.org, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.