Once the initial pain is relieved, we can begin treatment of the injury. A treatment we often choose to begin with at the Mountain View Pain Center is a method called flexion distraction treatment, coupled with other therapies to reduce swelling. The flexion distraction treatment works by widening the disc space and causing the herniation to essentially get “sucked back into the disc”. This treatment can be done by utilizing chiropractic techniques to relieve pressure on the herniated disc.
Another technique we use is called traction therapy, otherwise known as long axis distraction. Here the doctor will use a DTS machine (decompression therapy) set to specific settings unique to each patient. The machine will gradually begin to pull and will slowly separate the two vertebrae pushing on the disc. The purpose here again is to relieve the pressure on the disc. Many patients have found that treatment with a DTS machine is a safe and cost-effective treatment, and have found relief without the need for surgery.
Once the patient is out of pain, the rehabilitation can begin. It is important to remember that just because the pain is no longer there; it does not mean the disc is back to normal. A full disc recovery can take up to 3 months. The purpose now switches to restoring the body back to its normal function. This is done by low back exercise and simple core exercises. A set of very popular exercises used for disc treatment are called Mackenzie exercise (extension exercises). Your physician will be able to instruct you on the proper way to perform these.
Another preventative step that can be taken is supplementation to strengthen the discs or joints, or supplements that help with inflammation. Check with your doctor or physician before taking any supplements to see what is right for you and make sure there are no risks to taking these vitamins.
Some supplements for simple joint care are:
Glucosamine sulfate (500mg) with MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) (250mg): Glucosamine sulfate helps to stimulate specific components of your cartilage. MSM helps with pain and has been shown to be an anti-inflammatory
Omega fatty acids: Many are known as fish oils, they have multiple benefits besides anti-inflammatory, and they also build cell membranes, and help improve neurologic and cardiovascular function. Omega fatty acids are not just good for your discs, they are essential to life.
Quercetin/Bromelain: Also have anti-inflammation effects. These can be found naturally in vitamins, but not usually in the amounts useful to aid in inflammation.
These come in several brands, and we are not here to recommend specific brands of vitamins or supplements, just to inform the sports fans on injuries they see in themselves or many of their favorite athletes. If you decide you would like to know more about a specific vitamin or advice on the supplements we use, feel free to call, and we can point you in the right direction.
At L.I.F.T. Chiropractic we have seen and experienced that for the most effective pain recovery, conservative treatments should be utilized first before epidural injections and back surgery. However it is important for your doctor to acknowledge the importance of co-treating patients in their best interest for recovery. Our primary care is chiropractic and physical therapy, however if we determine a patient can benefit from another provider’s care we will refer them with no questions asked. The goal is to get the patient pain-free and restore them to healthy function in the manner that is most suitable to the patient.
Epidural Injections for Treating Pain
Joe Crede had the option to get an epidural injection, what is that? An epidural injection is the administration of medication that can cause both a loss of sensation (anesthesia) and a loss of pain (analgesia), by blocking the transmission of signals through nerves in or near the spinal cord. It is used to treat swelling, pain, and inflammation associated with neurological conditions that affect nerve roots, such as a herniated disc and radiculopathy (radiating pain).
The injections themselves can be painful and produce uncertain results. Studies show that epidural injection may provide short-term pain relief for patients when conservative treatments have failed. Simply put, epidural injections do not produce long term results hence the patient has to keep getting them to reduce the symptoms they are having. Possible side effects of epidural shots can be increased pain, loss of sensation, infection, and nerve damage. Follow the link to learn more about the side effects of using epidural injections to treat pain.
Herniated Disc Surgery
When it became clear the injury would not heal on its own, or that natural methods would be unsuccessful in correcting the problem, the choices Joe Crede faced were epidural shots or surgery. Prior to 2007, Crede had been able to manage the pain through at least four epidural treatments. However, in 2007, Crede determined that the temporary relief provided by the epidurals was not enough. At that point he opted for the microdisectomy, and then unfortunately experienced a re-herniation of the same area. Thus, the microdisectomy had to be repeated again a year after the first surgery.
In some circumstances it may be determined that back surgery is the best option. However, surgery is not always needed, and unfortunately many surgeries are unnecessary and cause further complications. Studies have shown that more than half of lower disc surgeries do not successfully relieve symptoms. As mentioned above, at the L.I.F.T. Chiropractic we believe that surgery should always be a last-resort option. For Joe Crede, surgery finally came three years after the initial onset of the injury. Despite the relative lack of success Crede experienced with the first surgery for his herniated disc, both he and the Minnesota Twins are hoping that the second microdisectomy will allow him to move forward and have a healthy, productive season.