You've Been Diagnosed With a Herniated Disc – Now What?

Dr. Constantine Toumbis

14 March 2023


Upon your herniated disc diagnosis, you may be wondering, “Is a herniated disc serious?” “What can I do to make a herniated disc better?,” “How can I treat a herniated disc?” and so on. 

Herniated discs can occur for a variety of reasons – from normal wear and tear of daily life to a traumatic incident. Let’s dive into what a herniated disc actually is and what to do once you’ve been diagnosed with one. 

What is a Herniated Disc?

Your spinal cord is made up of many parts. The two main parts of the spine are the spinal cord, which is made up of nerves, tissues and cells and is responsible for the brain-to-body connection, and the vertebral column, which surrounds and protects the spinal cord and is made up of the vertebrae and discs. 

Vertebrae are the bony structures in the spine. In between each vertebra are discs, which have a tough exterior shell and a soft, jelly-like interior that acts as a cushion between each vertebra. Your spinal discs enable flexibility and absorb shock from daily movements like walking, running, twisting and bending. Because of this, they’re effective at preventing injury from daily movement or incidents like a hard fall or car accident.

A herniated disc means that one of your spinal disc’s hard exteriors has cracked, allowing part of the disc's soft inner nucleus to leak out. A disc herniation can occur in any region of the spine, and you could have more than one occurrence.

Symptoms that may indicate a herniated disc include pain in the neck, arms, legs and/or the mid- or lower back. This pain can manifest as a burning, tingling, numbness or electric shock-like sensation that is either dull or sharp. 

If you have symptoms of a herniated disc or have been diagnosed with one, consult with a spinal specialist. Our team of spinal experts at Citrus Spine Institute can help you – we specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a range of spinal conditions, including herniated discs.

Herniated Disc Treatment and Recovery

Unfortunately, most herniated discs can’t be healed, reversed or repaired independently. However, there are certain things you can do to prevent further damage and manage or get rid of your pain. 

This is why it’s essential to see a doctor sooner rather than later – they can provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan that improves your quality of life and prevents further injury.

What To Avoid if You Have a Herniated Disc

  • Staying sedentary. While taking a day or two to rest immediately after you experience pain from a herniated disc is recommended, staying active (with the right activities) can promote healing. In addition to lengthy rest periods, sitting for long stretches can put pressure on your injury. If you must sit for long periods of time, an ergonomic desk setup can reduce this. 
  • Avoid bending over. Daily tasks, like household chores and pet care should be limited and/or avoided until your back pain improves.
  • Poor sleep posture. Proper sleep posture is good to follow regardless, however, if you have a herniated disc, it’s all the more important for pain relief.
  • Certain exercises. There are particular exercises that can put stress and strain on your back. Sit-ups, deadlifts, squats, hamstring stretches and any exercises or activities that require twisting or bending at the waist, like golf, should be avoided. You should also abstain from running and playing contact sports.
  • Eating inflammatory foods. Certain foods can exacerbate herniated disc pain. It’s best to steer clear of highly processed foods, foods with vegetable oil and high-sugar foods and drinks. Instead, maintain a diet full of nourishing, whole foods to support healing and your overall health.

Herniated Disc Treatment Options

Your healthcare provider may recommend a combination of treatments to help manage your herniated disc symptoms. 

  • Rest. Resting your back can give it a chance to recover, but you don’t want to do so for more than three days as this can make your back stiff.
  • Medications. Your doctor may recommend you take over-the-counter pain-relieving medications to help with discomfort or they may prescribe you a pain reliever or muscle relaxants, which can help if you’re experiencing muscle spasms. 
  • Hot and cold therapy. Depending on what your doctor recommends, using a heating pad and/or ice pack for set intervals may help relieve pain and inflammation. They will be able to give you guidance on which to use and for how long.
  • Physical therapy. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist, who you will work with to complete a treatment plan. They may use a range of modalities including but not limited to ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, hot and cold therapy, stretching exercises and massage to decrease inflammation and pain.
  • Spinal injections. If your pain doesn’t subside with oral medications, your doctor may suggest a corticosteroid injection, that can be injected into the affected area.

Once you’re diagnosed, one of the first questions that comes to mind may be, “Will I need surgery to treat my herniated disc?” If your condition and symptoms are severe and they don’t improve with mild treatment methods, your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgical treatments for herniated discs include artificial disc replacements, posterior lumbar fusion, anterior cervical fusion and discectomy

Explore Herniated Disc Treatment Options with Citrus Spine Institute

If you think you may have a herniated disc or have been diagnosed with one and want to know your best course of action, having a team of spinal experts on your side can give you the treatment you need and the peace of mind you want. 

Citrus Spine Institute is a boutique spine practice that offers state-of-the-art treatment for issues, like herniated discs, in all regions of the spine. We can help diagnose your back pain and come up with a treatment plan tailored to your unique condition. 

Dr. Constantine Toumbis

Dr. Toumbis is a board certified, fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in cervical, thoracic and lumbar surgery. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from New York University in 1987, then continued on to receive his Masters in Natural Sciences as well as a PhD in Experimental Pathology from State University of New York at Buffalo. He completed his medical degree at Wayne State University School of Medicine with a distinction in Biomedical Research. After moving to Florida to complete his internship and residency in orthopedics at the University of Florida Shands Hospital, he went on to pursue a fellowship at Cleveland Clinic's Florida Spine Institute. He moved to Citrus County and has been in private practice since 2005.

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