There may be alternatives to microdiscectomy, depending on your condition.
Most doctors recommend spinal surgery as a last resort, after back pain or referred pain has become chronic or after trauma. Although most people experience some improvements after surgery, there’s a risk of the surgery not being effective. For some people, spinal surgery has side effects and may even make the problem worse.
Your doctor may recommend surgery sooner if pain is severely limiting your activities or if you have neurological complications. However, for many people, back and neck problems, even ones with obvious mechanical causes, like a herniated disc, improve without surgical treatment.
If you want to avoid or delay surgery on your disc, talk to your doctor about these nonsurgical procedures and methods you can try first.
Things you can do yourself
There are several things you can do yourself to help relieve the symptoms of a herniated disc. They include short rest, learning to do things differently so that you avoid pain, a program of exercise, losing weight, using a TENS machine, mindful meditation and using hot and cold packs. Complete bed rest is no longer recommended for most types of neck and back pain. Learn more about things you can do yourself.
While they may relieve symptoms, medications don’t address the actual cause. Some of them are only available with a prescription from your doctor. Some can be used on a regular basis, while others are only suitable for short-term flare-ups. The main types of medication for back pain are painkillers, antispasmodics, antidepressants, and steroid injections. Medications for radiating arm and leg pain include the anti-epileptic medications such as pregabalin (Lyrica®) and gabapentin (Neurontin®). Learn more about medications.
Advice from the experts
Back and neck problems are so common and difficult to treat that medical professionals have developed several different ways of managing them.
Your GP can help you with medication, imaging and referrals to physiotherapists, occupational therapists, specialist doctors and surgeons.
Many people also seek independent advice from chiropractors, osteopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists and psychologists. Learn more about how health professionals can help.
There are several non-surgical interventions (or less-invasive surgical interventions) that can help with back symptoms, including a pain management program, neurotomy, a spinal cord stimulator, an intrathecal pain pump and more. Learn more about non-surgical interventions.