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Is It Worth It to Have Surgery for a Herniated Disc?


Spinal discs are rubbery and spongy enough to cushion the spine's bones but still flexible enough to handle the stress from daily movements. Eventually, all this wear and strain can lead to damage to certain discs, especially ones in the lower back area. If you're living with painful symptoms from a herniated disc, you may have reached a point where you're wondering if herniated disc surgery is worth it. Here's what we recommend considering as you make your decision.

Your Response to Nonsurgical Treatment Efforts

Determining whether herniated disc surgery is worth it for you largely depends on the results you've been seeing with nonsurgical treatments. Unless symptoms are potentially life-threatening, patients are typically advised to try conservative treatments for several months before surgery is discussed. These options usually involve:

• Anti-inflammatory and pain medication
• Personalized physical therapy routines/recommendations
• Therapeutic injections
• Massage therapy
• Lifestyle adjustments with diet, exercise, and posture improvements

If it's been several months and you're still not seeing results, herniated disc surgery may be worth it for you. According to a study referenced by
WebMD, waiting for discomfort to subside can be beneficial for some patients, but surgery often produces desirable results faster.

Your Activity Level

Herniated spinal disc surgery may not be worth it if your symptoms are still manageable enough to allow you to get through your day. However, if you're usually on the more active side with sports and various activities, disc pain flare-ups can be more burdensome. In fact, you may be entirely unable to participate in certain sports or activities if radiating nerve pain is a recurring issue. If this is the case for you, surgery is worth considering.

Your Goals with Surgery

Every spinal disc patient has different goals and expectations with herniated disc surgery. If your discomfort is almost debilitating at times, just getting welcome relief is an understandable goal with surgery. Preferring to return to a more active lifestyle is also a worthwhile goal with disc surgery. As long as your expectations are realistic and reasonable, surgery is worth considering if other treatments haven’t been effective.

Your Overall Health

Herniated disc surgery is like any other type of surgery in that your overall health should also be taken into consideration. If you have underlying chronic issues like high blood pressure or diabetes, there may be complication risks. If this applies to you, making an effort to manage existing health issues as well as possible in advance of your surgery may reduce possible risks.

Other Considerations

It's also worth considering how herniated disc surgery, particularly a discectomy, is typically done today. While each situation is different, it's often possible to use minimally invasive techniques to remove disc material irritating nearby nerves. This means less post-surgery discomfort and
discectomy recovery time that’s often shorter than what's common with traditional disc surgery. Also, since it's more common today to leave as much of the disc in place as possible, you may not need an accompanying fusion procedure. If this is the case, spinal motion is maintained.

Although microdiscectomy surgery is generally a very successful procedure, patients with a larger hole in the outer ring of the disc have a significantly higher risk of reherniation following surgery. Often, the surgeon won’t know the size of the hole until beginning surgery. A new treatment, Barricaid, which is a bone-anchored device proven to reduce the risk of reherniation, was specifically designed to close the hole often left in the spinal disc after discectomy. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and doesn’t require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. In a large-scale study, 95 percent of Barricaid patients didn’t undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in the 2-year study timeframe. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment or how to get access to Barricaid, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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