Can a herniated disc heal with physical therapy?

Chronic back pain can have a devastating effect on a person’s ability to function. If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disk, you might want to take the most drastic steps to eliminate the pain as soon as possible. For many people, this means surgery. However, before surgery becomes an option, many doctors recommend a six-to-12-week course of physical therapy. It has been reported that as many as 90% of people with herniated disks can be successfully treated without surgery.

Physical therapy increases muscle strength and mobility while reducing the recurrence of symptoms. In conjunction with pain treatment, such as epidural steroid injections, it can help manage back pain, return to normal physical activity, and avoid the risk of injuries associated with surgery.

Often, the process begins with passive physical therapy treatments to relax your body and alleviate pain. These include

  • deep tissue massage
  • hot and cold therapy
  • transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS)
  • hydrotherapy
  • traction

Once pain is under control, we will start you on an exercise regimen that will strengthen and stabilize your lower back muscles, prevent further injury and pain, and develop strong muscles to support your body weight and bones—taking unnecessary pressure off your spine. And because carrying extra weight constantly strains your back, a weight loss regimen can help, too.

Beyond the risks inherent in any spinal procedure, surgery often entails a significant period of convalescence. If you have surgery, you will need rehabilitative physical therapy that helps your body adjust to the changes caused by the surgery.

Whether or not you have surgery, physical therapy is a necessary part of the treatment for a herniated disk. Working with your physician or surgeon, we can help you no matter what treatment you decide to take.

Learn more about STARS Physical Therapy Services.