Most patients with herniated discs prefer to travel the non-surgical road when it comes to treatment for their condition. It’s natural to want to avoid “going under the knife”, so to speak. For these patients, most chiropractors and other spine specialists will suggest NSAIDs and rest for at least four to six weeks and, often, that’ll do the trick. But when a regular course of non-surgical treatment doesn’t seem to be getting the job done, surgical intervention may become necessary to relieve pain and set the patient on the road to recovery.
So, when is it time to talk to your patient about surgery? Generally, the problems listed below are a good indication that something more drastic must be considered.
- Medication has not significantly reduced the symptoms of the herniated disc
- Physical therapy has not aided in reducing the symptoms
- The individual is having severe pain that interferes with the tasks that must do daily, including walking and standing as well as tasks related to their specific job or duties
- Neurological symptoms appear or worsen, including numbness or weakness in the legs
Any or all of these could even occur before the normal course of non-surgical treatment is completed. In other words, if progressive neurological symptoms happen at 3 weeks, then it may be time to recommend surgery for this particular patient.
Surgery. That’s a scary word, especially for individuals who have never spent any time in the hospital. It’s likely your patient will have an adverse reaction to the word when you mention it as an option, but they should know that lumbar herniated disc surgery has an excellent rate of success and is actually quite minimally-invasive. You’ll want to explain that both the microdiscectomy and the endoscopic discectomy are usually performed on an outpatient basis, with patients coming home – in most cases – on the same day as the procedure. You can also talk to your patients about the specifics of the procedure and explain what’s happening now that they have a herniated disc and what will change once the surgery is complete.
Just about everything about their surgery and about the lumbar spine in general can be demonstrated via the use of a detailed spine model like the ones made by Dynamic Disc Designs (ddd). These models were designed with spine specialists in mind, but were also created to help the lay person understand the complicated workings of the spine. Doctors who use ddd models to educate their patients about their conditions and about upcoming procedures create patients who are less frightened and more confident about their doctor’s recommendations. That confidence generates patients that will stay with your practice and recommend you to others.
For more information on the right ddd model(s) for your spine surgery or chiropractic practice, browse the website and watch the videos for a detailed explanation of how each model works.
“The LxH disc model is the most realistic patient education tool I’ve seen in 27 years of practice. When patients see the model, they immediately “get it”. If you treat herniated discs in your practice, this is a must have. I commend Dr. Fryer on his painstaking efforts to produce such a finely crafted and well thought out model.”
–Dean M. Greenwood, DC