Learn about the symptoms of a herniated disk.Learn more »
Learn how lumbar disk disease (herniated disk) is diagnosed.Learn more »
Learn how lumbar disk disease (herniated disk) is treated.Learn more »
Learn the follow-up care for lumbar disk disease (herniated disk).Learn more »
As the region's neuroscience leader, Lehigh Valley Health Network is ready with the latest breakthroughs for the toughest spine cases, including herniated disks and spinal tumors.
Typically, conservative therapy is the first line of herniated disk (lumbar disk disease) treatment. This may include a combination of the following:
- Bed rest
- Patient education on proper body mechanics (to help decrease the chance of worsening pain or damage to the disk)
- Physical therapy, which may include ultrasound, massage, conditioning and exercise programs
- Chiropractic treatment
- Weight control
- Use of a lumbosacral back support (a type of brace or belt)
- Medications (to control pain and/or to relax muscles)
When these conservative measures fail, surgery for removal of a herniated disk may be recommended.
Surgery is done under general anesthesia. An incision is placed in the lower back over the area where the disk is herniated. Some bone from the back of the spine may be removed to gain access to the area where the disk is located. Typically, the herniated part of the disk and any extra loose pieces of disk are removed from the disk space.
An anterior lumbar fusion surgical procedure fuses vertebrae to help ease your lower back and leg pain. It is generally done through an abdominal incision. Depending on how many vertebrae are fused, your spinal fusion surgery may take from three to eight hours. You will spend two to five days in the hospital after this surgery.
In artificial disk replacement surgery, the surgeon inserts a quarter-sized artificial disk – composed of high-density plastic between two metal plates – in place of the removed disk. Grooved teeth on the plates' outer sides keep the disk in place, as does the natural pressure of the spine.
This artificial disk helps the spine maintain its natural flexibility and shock absorption. The procedure reduces back and neck pain, recovery times and hospital stays associated with back surgery. You can expect to spend about one day in the hospital following this procedure.
A cervical fusion surgical procedure fuses vertebrae to help ease neck and arm pain. Cervical fusion usually is performed through an incision in the front of the neck and generally takes from one to four hours, depending on how many vertebrae are fused. You typically will spend one day in the hospital after this procedure. Your neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon will provide guidance on when you can resume everyday activities.
During a cervical laminotomy procedure, your neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon will remove a small portion of your lamina rather than removing it completely, which is what happens in a procedure called a laminectomy. Cervical laminotomy relieves the pressure on your nerves, alleviating your neck pain. Your hospital stay is typically two or three days. Your neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon will provide guidance on when you can resume everyday activities.
Patients whose herniated lumbar disks have failed to respond to other treatment may be able to get relief from disk removal – called a diskectomy. Traditionally, this type of surgery required a large incision through the thick layer of back muscles. The back muscles, tendons and spinal structures all incur significant injury during “open” surgery, which can cause a great deal of post-surgical pain.
Now this surgery can be performed using just tiny incisions, called microdiskectomy. The procedures are performed under a microscope, through a small plastic tube that splits the muscle tissue, rather than cutting it. The surgeons of Lehigh Valley Health Network are at the forefront in the practice of these “minimally invasive” spine surgeries, reducing your time spent in the hospital and recovery after surgery. You will be up walking around the same day as your surgery and typically able to resume normal everyday activities within two weeks.
During a laminectomy procedure, a portion of your vertebral bone, called the lamina, is surgically removed. There are several types of laminectomy surgery, ranging from microlaminectomy to traditional laminectomy. In a microlaminectomy, very tiny incisions are made, and the back muscles are moved aside so the neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon can remove the lamina. Recovery is a few days. During a traditional laminectomy, the incision is large, and the overlying ligaments and muscles must be cut. You can expect to spend one to three days in the hospital. Your recovery will depend largely upon the type of laminectomy performed. Your neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon will develop a postoperative recovery and exercise program that’s right for you.
During a lumbar microlaminotomy procedure, your neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon will remove a very small portion of your lamina (part of your vertebrae) using minimally invasive surgical techniques. Minimally invasive surgery doesn’t require large incisions and uses tiny specialized instruments such as a microscope and endoscope during the procedure. The surgery relieves the pressure on your nerves, alleviating your back pain. You can expect to spend one or two days in the hospital. Your neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon will provide guidance on when you can resume everyday activities.