There are 33 bones called vertebrae that make up your backbone, or spine. Discs filled with a jelly-like substance exist between the 24 moveable vertebrae to cushion them and keep them in place. These discs are made of a thick outer ring of cartilage that surrounds the inner jelly-like substance.
With age, the discs can deteriorate and lose their ability to provide a comfortable cushion. As they begin to wear, the jelly-like substance can push against the outer ring. When the outer ring is weak or injured, it can allow the jelly to leak out, causing a herniated disc.
At Regenerative Pain & Spine in Chicago, Illinois, interventional pain specialist Shoeb Mohiuddin, MD, and our team provide a range of therapies for patients experiencing pain from herniated discs. Based on a physical examination, medical history, and diagnostic tests, Dr. Mohiuddin recommends a treatment plan to help relieve the pain and immobility.
The first course of treatment for a herniated disc typically involves conservative therapies including rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy. If these don’t provide relief over time, you may benefit from one of the following therapies.
Shock wave therapy works by stimulating your body’s natural mechanisms to heal the herniated disc. The procedure administers intense sound waves, called shock waves, into the damaged soft tissue. A similar technique is used to break up kidney stones.
The shock waves produce a localized injury that traumatizes the treated soft tissue. In response to the injury, your body increases blood flow and nutrients to the affected area to heal the injury.
An epidural steroid injection involves administering medication into the epidural space, the external region of your spinal column, where nerve roots leave your spine. The medication consists of a corticosteroid, commonly called a steroid, and a local anesthetic.
The corticosteroid coats the inflamed nerve roots. Its anti-inflammatory properties work to reduce nerve irritation and swelling. This prevents discomfort while the nerve heals.
The anesthetic included in the injection provides relatively immediate pain relief. The pain relief provided by the corticosteroid can begin within a few hours or take up to a week before delivering noticeable results.
Once the corticosteroid takes effect, it typically provides enough relief to allow you to resume normal activities and make progress in physical therapy. The results can last for a period ranging from one week to a year.
Spinal cord stimulation uses a generator and wires to disrupt the signals that damaged nerves send to your brain so your brain doesn’t receive them, which eliminates pain. The treatment uses a stimulating electrode wire connected to a small generator that acts as a power unit.
The electrodes are surgically implanted in your epidural space. The generator is inserted under your skin in an area near your buttocks or abdomen.
You control the electrical impulses with an external remote control that communicates with the generator via an antenna. When you turn on the generator, it sends electrical impulses that interfere with your pain signals. This prevents the signals from traveling up your spine and reaching your brain.
Regenerative medicine involves the use of materials from your own body or donor tissue to encourage natural healing processes to relieve pain. When these substances are injected into diseased or damaged areas of soft tissue, such as a herniated disc, they can promote faster and more efficient healing.
The regenerative medicine injection contains platelet-rich plasma (PRP), stem cells, or amniotic tissue.
Treatments that use platelet-rich plasma (PRP) involve the injection of solutions that are formulated from your own blood. After the blood is withdrawn, it is placed in a centrifuge to isolate your platelets from other cells.
When injected at the precise site of your herniated disc, the platelets release growth factors that promote tissue growth by encouraging collagen production and attracting more blood flow and stem cells to the injured area.
Stem cell therapy uses your own stem cells, typically harvested from your blood, fat, or bone marrow. Stem cells help jumpstart healing by changing into cells that can repair and replace injured tissue.
Amniotic tissue therapy uses the cells from the placenta, umbilical cord, and amniotic fluid of volunteers. This material, which is collected immediately after childbirth, contains living stem cells. After it is processed, sterilized, and frozen or dried, it no longer contains living cells, but a high concentration of growth factors that promote healing similar to PRP.
If a herniated disc is interfering with your ability to live without pain, find out more about your options for treatment. To schedule a consultation, call one of our offices in Chicago’s West Ridge area.