When a patient experiences a disc herniation it can create chronic pain, loss of ability to perform daily tasks, and emotional distress. Patients with disc herniation often come to physical therapy worried about the following questions:
Is my pain chronic?
Will I ever be able to perform my favorite activities again?
Will I be able to perform my necessary job tasks without pain?
Will my injuries heal?
Is surgery my only option?
Patients with disc herniation will be happy to know that there are a number of noninvasive treatment options that can help relieve pain and improve mobility. For example, physical therapy plays a major role in herniated disc recovery.
Physical therapy utilizes many advanced, effective modalities that offer disc herniation patients with immediate pain relief as well as necessary education and functional movement training to condition their body to prevent further injury.
While surgical intervention may be necessary for some patients to gain the pain relief and improvement in function, there are a number of patients who will go through with the surgery and still suffer from pain. Physical therapy uses techniques which can help reduce pain and improve functional ability without the discomfort or downtime that a surgical procedure would require. What’s more, physical therapy prepares patients to have good spinal health using specific modalities and techniques to address current pain and reduce future risk.
When treating a patient with disc herniation some of the most effective treatments a physical therapist may use are: cold compression therapy, ultrasound therapy, electrical stimulation (e.g. TENS), hydrotherapy and traction in addition to functional training.
The Best Modalities to Treat Patients with Disc Herniation
Cold Compression Therapy: Cold compression therapy is an innovative modality that blends pain relieving cold therapy with edema reducing compression. Game Ready’s Cold Compression Therapy device uses a customized wrap for the back that offers patients with targeted treatment for immediate pain relief. Not only is cold compression therapy beneficial to use with acute pain, it is also great to use for any pain that may arise during the course of treatment.
Ultrasound Therapy: Ultrasound therapy is great to use for patients with disc herniation because ultrasound therapy offers targeted treatment with the use of different shaped soundhead applicators. From smaller areas like the cervical spine to larger areas like the lumbar region, practitioners can choose the soundhead applicator best suited to provide targeted treatment and relief. Practitioners can also choose from pulsed mode to address more superficial pain or continuous mode to address deep tissue pain like that which may be experienced with disc herniations that have caused sciatica.
Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy is one of the oldest modalities used in physical therapy and continues to be a popular treatment because it is both effective and noninvasive. Hydrotherapy in the form of whirlpool therapy can be used to blend the therapeutic benefits of water and heat therapy. This combination has been shown to effectively reduce pain. Conversely, the use of cold water whirlpool therapy can also be used for its analgesic effect and is popular to use in sports training.
Traction: When a patient has a disc herniation, the goal of using traction is to immediately reduce the effects of gravity on the spine. By gently pulling apart the bones, the intention is to reduce the herniation and provide improvement in pain levels. This is similar to when you use a car-jack under a flat tire. When you apply pressure to the jack it subsequently takes pressure off of the tire. Traction can be performed in the cervical or lumbar spine and can be performed manually or with the use of a traction table. A traction table offers benefits for both the practitioner and patient. For the practitioner, a traction table reduces the need for manual manipulation which can be fatiguing. For the patient, a traction table provides consistent traction for the duration of treatment.
Electrical Stimulation (TENS): Electrical stimulation in the form of Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a physical therapy that uses low-voltage electrical current for pain relief and can be useful in treating patients who have sustained a disc herniation. Not only is electrical stimulation effective on its own, it can be used along with ultrasound therapy to provide patients with a powerful combination treatment which can reduce even chronic pain caused by disc herniation. Further, there are portable TENS units available for practitioners who treat patients off-site or for patient use at home. Portable TENS units give patients a safe yet reliable alternative to oral pain medication. These at home units are easy to use yet incredibly effective.
Muscle strengthening: In order to provide necessary support for your spine, it’s important to strengthen the surrounding muscles. Not only will stronger muscles provide better support, it will also reduce pain and improve posture.
Core stability: Core stability is essential for spinal health. The core (abdominal) muscles help a patient’s back muscles support their spine. When a patient’s core muscles are weak, it will put extra pressure on their back because the back has to work twice as hard to stabilize the spine. Strengthening the core will help patients safely stabilize and strengthen the back.
Flexibility: Proper stretching and flexibility techniques will prepare a patient for exercise and physical activity. In addition to helping patients move easier, it will help reduce stiffness and pain.
For patients who have sustained a disc herniation, surgical intervention should be the last resort. In addition to downtime and discomfort, there remains a large percentage of patients with disc herniation with which surgery fails to reduce their pain.
Physical therapy offers patients an alternative that is less invasive and yields positive results for reducing pain. Not only that, physical therapy provides patient who have disc herniations with the necessary functional training to help reduce the risk of future pain.
Contact Us Today
We can help you find the right therapeutic devices or equipment to meet your clinic’s needs. Contact us today and we’ll gladly help you find exactly what you need to help your patients with disc herniations achieve pain-free function in their daily lives. Call us today at 1-801-770-3328.