While some neurological diseases require surgery, many others can be treated with medications, rehabilitation and other nonsurgical therapies. These therapies can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life for people with epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson's disease and dozens of other conditions treated at Cedars-Sinai. The examples below are a starting point for your treatment journey. As with any medical issue, discuss treatments with your doctor to find the right ones for you.
Whatever your condition, Cedars-Sinai is here to support and guide you to the best possible care. Learn about the wide range of neurological conditions that can be treated without surgery.
- ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease)
- Brain aneurysm
- Brain tumors
- Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson's disease
- Peripheral nerve disorders
- Pituitary tumors
- Spinal disorders
- TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)
Types of Nonsurgical Options
- Anti-seizure medications. These drugs can help stop or control seizures and are also prescribed to relieve pain that sometimes comes with nerve injury, damage or degeneration.
- Blood thinners. Simple drugs like aspirin or clopidogrel go a long way toward preventing stroke. Stronger blood thinners may be needed in selected cases.
- Corticosteroids and disease-modifying drugs. These medications alter the immune system and are often prescribed for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). They may reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms in relapsing-remitting MS or slow the progression of secondary progressive MS.
- Dopaminergic medications. The most widely prescribed drugs for patients with Parkinson's disease help produce or mimic dopamine, and reduce symptoms such as muscle rigidity, slow body movement, poor coordination and tremors.
- Clot-busting drugs. This treatment is typically administered at the first sign of an ischemic stroke, in which a clot prevents blood from flowing to an area of the brain. The medication helps dissolve the clot so blood can flow again.
- Immunotherapies. These drugs are prescribed for disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome. They help reduce the inflammatory response that triggers symptoms.
- Antidepressants. These medications increase levels of certain brain chemicals. They may help reduce sleep problems, relieve pain and improve mood for patients with neurological disorders.
Noninvasive radiation treatments are often recommended for small or hard-to-treat brain tumors. There are two types your doctor may prescribe:
Radiosurgery, using a device called a Gamma Knife, isn't actually surgery at all. It delivers radiation directly to a brain tumor, to shrink or prevent it from growing. Radiosurgery is most often used for certain brain tumors, including:
- Small tumors called acoustic neuromas, meningiomas or gliomas
- Small pituitary adenomas, benign tumors that grow in the pituitary gland
- Hemangioblastomas, tumors of the central nervous system that either couldn't be removed, were only partly removed or came back after surgery
- Small brain tumors that appear after the first one is treated
Radiotherapy uses different doses of radiation to treat different areas, with the goal of reducing damage to surrounding tissues. It's used on harder-to-treat tumors—those with irregular edges or that are close to critical organs.
Physical therapy can help improve your body's functioning, while occupational therapy helps you deal with cognitive or physical changes that can result from a neurological condition. At Cedars-Sinai, you can receive inpatient and outpatient therapies to help optimize your recovery and become more self-sufficient. A team of therapists will work with you.
Noninvasive brain-stimulation therapies may be prescribed for neurological disorders—such as epilepsy and Parkinson's disease—when medication is no longer effective. These therapies activate or inhibit parts of the brain using electricity or magnetic fields. They're administered through electrodes placed on the scalp.
Some common options include:
- Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS): Rapidly alternating magnetic fields stimulate specific areas of the brain while the patient remains awake.
- Magnetic seizure therapy (MST): This is similar to electroconvulsive therapy and rTMS, but uses magnetic pulses to stimulate a precise target in the brain.
- Interventional pain management. These noninvasive pain treatments can include injections of an anesthetic medicine or steroid around the nerves, tendons, joints, muscles or spinal cord stimulation, to block pain messages from reaching the brain.
- Head and neck pain treatments. If you have a chronic headache or mouth, face or neck pain associated with a neurological condition, common treatments may include:
- Splint/oral appliance therapy. These are mouth guards and other devices that protect against physical stress.
- Trigger-point injections. These deliver pain-relieving medications to important spots on the body.
- Nerve blocks. These are intravenous infusions that numb areas of pain.
- Biofeedback. This therapy helps you monitor and control your body's pain reactions.
- Cognitive-behavioral strategies. This helps you learn new thought patterns to avoid focusing on pain.
- Topical ointments. These are patches, gels or creams containing pain-numbing ingredients that are applied locally to the skin.
- Behavioral therapy, nerve blocks or botulinum injections. These help relax muscles or prevent them from contracting.
In addition to medical treatments, your doctor may recommend various lifestyle changes that can help you regain health and quality of life, including:
- Changes in diet. Eating or avoiding certain foods may help reduce symptoms in people with neurological diseases. For example, patients with epilepsy are sometimes put on a ketogenic diet—a high-fat, low-carb regimen. Research suggests that it may reduce seizures, especially in children who haven't responded well to medications. Dietary modification prevents migraines and may help prevent dementia.
- Regular exercise. Staying physically active, if possible, may help control symptoms for some neurological conditions. For example, a large study known as the Parkinson's Outcomes Project found that people with Parkinson's disease who started exercising earlier—and who were active for a minimum of 2.5 hours a week—maintained their quality of life longer, compared to other patients. Regular aerobic exercise prevents memory loss and dementia. Conditioning and strengthening, along with aerobic exercise, prevent migraines.
- Sleep more. You'll need more sleep after treatment of a neurological condition. According to the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, studies have linked recovery of function after a brain injury with better sleep-wake cycles. Your sleep may be irregular for a while after certain treatments, but normal patterns should reappear as your body gets healthier.
- Get Support. Joining a support group can boost your physical, social and emotional wellbeing when you're dealing with a neurological condition. In the groups offered at Cedars-Sinai, patients in all stages of diagnosis and treatment offer insights and experience to those on similar journeys.
The Neurology and Neurosurgery departments at Cedars-Sinai are committed to advancing knowledge in their fields. Learn about ongoing clinical trials, and find out how research can help improve screening and treatments for conditions affecting the brain and nervous system.