Disc problems have three basic levels of severity: a disc bulge, in which the inner portion of the disc bulges out of the protective covering; a disc herniation, a condition that occurs when the center of the disc bulges out and moves more significantly backward toward the spinal cord; and a disc dessication, a serious condition that often leads to immediate surgery.
Most cases of disc problems, however, do not require surgery. Medical specialists trained in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (Physiatrists) are experts in treating disc problems and helping patients avoid surgery. This type of physician focuses on conservative pain management and rehabilitation strategies; Physiatrists are ideal practitioners for patients who wish to avoid unnecessary surgeries or the harmful use of painkilling medications.
For example, the Medical Director at our Monmouth & Ocean County pain management facility might use any of the following options in the treatment of disc problems:
• Physical Therapy;
• Spinal Decompression;
• Spinal Manipulation; and
• Epidural Steroid Injections: In some cases, herniated discs can cause enough pain that patients are unable to withstand any of the above rehabilitative practices. A Physiatrist may then choose to perform Epidural Steroid Injections, a minimally invasive procedure that reduces inflammation (and therefore pain) in the spinal nerves. This practice delivers a long-lasting corticosteroid and an anesthetic numbing agent to the spinal nerve through the epidural space. The epidural space is the area between the protective covering of the vertebrae and spinal cord. The goal of this treatment is to relieve pain so that patients may rehabilitate the healthy way—with physical therapy, traction, etc.—instead of resorting to surgery or drugs.