What Happens if a Herniated Disc Goes Untreated?

Oct 20, 2020

What Happens if a Herniated Disc Goes UntreatedWhile having a herniated disc is not an uncommon injury, it can be extremely uncomfortable and even lead to chronic issues in the future. The best way to prevent a simple disc injury from becoming a lifelong problem is to seek treatment early from an experienced Jonesboro chiropractor. With gentle and non-invasive treatment at the start of your injury, you will be able to manage pain and repair any spinal injuries to resume your normal daily activities. If you wait to seek treatment, the problem can escalate and require more serious and invasive methods like surgery to repair the issue and prevent further nerve damage.

What Is a Herniated Disc?

To understand what it means to have and how to treat a herniated disc, you should first understand the way the spine is built. Rather than one long bone, the spine is a series of smaller bones called vertebrae that stack on top of each other to form the spine. In order to avoid friction and absorb any shock, these vertebrae are separated by small, jelly-filled cartilage discs. It is when one of these discs moves out of place that it is known as herniated. The disc can also split, bulge, or rupture and cause similar issues as it is out of its normal placement. This lets the jelly-like substance inside the discs slip out, it places pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves, leading to pain and trouble with normal movement.

The first sign of a herniated disc will likely be numbness and tingling in the arms or legs, depending on where the affected disc is located. Pain and trouble with motion in these areas can also occur, especially when moving or bending. As soon as you notice these symptoms, it is smart to visit a Jonesboro chiropractor to address the injury early.

Treatment Methods

Depending on the location and severity of your injury, a chiropractor may use a variety of techniques to help relieve pain and repair disc issues over time. Below are some, but not all, of the methods you may see.

Pain Medication

Because one of the first symptoms is pain, one of the first treatments for a herniated disc is counter pain medication, typically NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and steroids. NSAIDs are commonly sold over the counter and provide short-term pain relief, but can also lead to health issues if used for an extended period of time. Steroids can be taken orally or administered via an epidural injection, but also are a not sustainable treatment for long periods of time. While a chiropractor may instruct you to use painkillers for initial symptoms, they will be a limited part of your treatment.

Physical Therapy

One of the most common ways to help with the pain and discomfort from a herniated disc is physical therapy. Many spine issues are rooted in a lack of strength in back muscles, and strengthening these muscles can reduce strain and help prevent issues in the long term. A physical therapist will work with your chiropractor to develop a set of exercises designed to improve your muscle strength without exacerbating any pain.

Epidural Injections

The pain associated with herniated discs is caused by inflammation and nerve irritation, which can be treated with the anti-inflammatory compounds in steroids. When these are injected directly into the area of the spine that is causing pain, it can provide relief. Epidural injections are best used in conjunction with other treatments but can help you regain movement in severe cases.


When symptoms are left untreated and the situation worsens, surgery may become your only option to relieve the pain. Discectomies are a common procedure, in which the portion of the disc causing pressure is removed via an incision on your back. These procedures are often done as an outpatient procedure and yield good results, but surgery should be considered a last resort.

First Steps to Pain Relief

When none of these steps are taken, not only can pain worsen, but the strain placed on your back can lead to other serious complications and chronic pain.

As soon as you identify symptoms of a herniated disc, one of the first things you should do is contact a Jonesboro chiropractor to assess the injury. They can use physical exams and diagnostic imaging to determine the location of the herniated disc and determine the best court of action. At AICA Jonesboro, our chiropractors work with physical therapists, neurologists, orthopedists, and pain management specialists to design individualized plans for our patients. Call us today to schedule your first appointment!


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