The majority of the time, the arm pain from a cervical herniated disc can be controlled with medication, and non-surgical (also called conservative) treatments alone are enough to resolve the symptoms.
Watch Video: Can Herniated Discs Heal on Their Own?
Once the arm pain starts to improve it is unlikely to return. If the arm pain gets better it is acceptable to continue with nonsurgical treatment, as there really is no literature that supports the theory that surgery for cervical disc herniation helps the nerve root heal quicker.
All treatments for a cervical herniated disc are essentially designed to help resolve the arm pain, and usually the weakness and numbness/tingling will resolve with time.
When the initial pain from a cervical herniated disc hits, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Nuprin, Motrin) or COX-2 inhibitors (e.g. Celebrex) can help reduce the pain.
See Medications for Back Pain and Neck Pain
The pain caused by a cervical herniated disc is caused by a combination of two processes:
Therefore, taking anti-inflammatory medications to remove some of the inflammation can reduce this component of the pain while the pressure component (pinching of the nerve root) resolves.
For patients with severe pain from a herniated disc, oral steroids (such as Prednisone or a Medrol Dose Pak) may give even better pain relief. However, these medications can only be used for a short period of time (one week).
In addition to anti-inflammatory medications mentioned above, there are a number of non-surgical treatment options that can help alleviate the pain from a cervical herniated disc, such as:
Physicians who provide the above treatments for a cervical herniated disc may include family practitioners, physiatrists (physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians), osteopathic physicians, neurologists, and orthopedic spine surgeons or neurosurgeons. Chiropractors and physical therapists may also provide some of the above treatments for a cervical herniated disc in their respective areas of specialization.