The vertebrae that form your spine are cushioned by individual disks composed of a soft, absorbent material. When functioning properly, these disks act as "shock absorbers" or padding for your spine. But when damaged, these disks can cause debilitating pain and muscle weakness.
How to Heal a Herniated Disk
The foremost step in treating a herniated disk is to consult with a doctor. Roughly 10 percent of patients who suffer a herniated disk eventually have to undergo corrective surgery. Furthermore, very similar symptoms present in patients with cauda equina syndrome, which is extremely serious, albeit rare. Your doctor will advise you on the proper steps to take, such as the proper exercises and how long you need bed rest.
Rest is the most important part of treating a herniated disk. Movement places more strain and friction on your disks, and can cause the disk to be damaged even further. Movement is also extremely painful while the disk is herniated, so it should be avoided.
While the disk is herniated, proper medication management is essential to your comfort. A moderate pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory drug, such as high-strength ibuprofen, can work to reduce the swelling in your back and help alleviate your pain. Upon your initial doctor's consultation, you may be prescribed a more potent drug, such as codeine or vicodin. It is important to take these drugs according to your doctor's orders, as they have the potential for respiratory or cardiac side effects and can also be highly addictive.
Once your disk has recovered, back-building exercises can help to recover lost back strength, and aid in preventing your disks from becoming herniated again. Your doctor will recommend certain exercises and tell you how long you should do the exercises, and how many reps you should undertake. It is important, again, that you follow doctor's orders. Exercising too soon or too much can potentially worsen the injury.