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When Does a Herniated Disc Require Surgery?

When Does a Herniated Disc Require Surgery?

Though surgery is a treatment option for many conditions that cause back pain, such as a herniated disc, it’s usually the last one recommended. So, when does a herniated disc require surgery?

At Orthopedic & Wellness in Frederick, Waldorf, and Germantown, Maryland, our orthopedic and pain management physicians — Dr. Ojedapo Ojeyemi and Dr. Matthew Roh — take an individualized approach to care. We work closely with our patients when deciding what treatments can provide the greatest benefit. Here, we address when we would consider surgery for a herniated disc.

What is a herniated disc?

Each vertebral bone in your spine is separated by an intervertebral disc. These discs act as a cushion and shock absorber and help you twist and bend your spine with ease. Intervertebral discs also ensure there’s enough space in between each vertebrae to accommodate the spinal nerves that exit from your spinal cord, branching off and traveling to the rest of your body.

A herniated disc means the gel-like interior of your intervertebral disc has busted through the tough exterior, protruding out. The location and severity of the herniation plays a significant role in how it affects you. If the herniation irritates or compresses a spinal nerve or the spinal cord, it may cause various levels of pain.

Herniated discs are common, especially as you get older. Though you can get a herniated disc from an accident, your discs naturally degenerate over time, making them more vulnerable to tears and herniation.

Nonsurgical treatment first

A herniated disc may heal on its own. That’s why we always start with nonsurgical treatments such as anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy for herniated discs. 

We may also try interventional pain management treatments like spine injections to reduce pain and inflammation and support your body’s natural healing process. 

Surgery for a herniated disc

We only consider surgery for a herniated disc if our conservative methods fail to provide relief from your symptoms. 

Some of the symptoms that may indicate it’s time for surgery include:


When it comes to surgery for a herniated disc, we prefer using minimally invasive spine surgery whenever possible. This approach reduces post-procedure pain and recovery time. 

During surgery, we remove the damaged disc and may either replace it with an artificial disc or fuse the vertebral bones together (spinal fusion) to limit painful movements.

Only in extreme cases do we recommend surgery for a herniated disc. 

If you have back pain or neck pain from a herniated disc and can’t get relief from conservative medical care, we can talk to you about your options, including surgery. Schedule an appointment with our orthopedic spine experts by calling the office most convenient to you or by booking an appointment online today.

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