6 Tips for Relieving Pain From Herniated Discs


Do you experience achy or sharp radiating pain to your shoulder, arm, buttock or leg? This may be an indicator of a bulging or herniated disc in your neck or back. Between each of your vertebrae that make up your spine, are small cushions called discs. Herniated discs are more common in the 30-50 age bracket. A herniated disc is when the material inside the disc pushes outward, irritating the nerve. This can occur on either side of your spine and depending on the nerve affected in your neck or back, can cause radiating pain, numbness and loss of sensation. Most people are able to relieve their pain from a herniated disc in four to six weeks using medications and following a physical therapist’s recommendations. However, in cases where the pain is very severe, surgery may be used as a last resort. To better understand the pain you’re feeling, it’s important for you to consult with a physical therapist. They will be able to analyze your pain, provide you with a detailed plan of care, and give you plenty of recommendations.


Common treatment options for relieving herniated disc pain:


1). Hot and cold packs

For mild herniated disc pain, relieve the inflammation. For instance, applying a heating pad or ice pack to the affected area is a good way to temporarily relieve your pain and reduce inflammation. Take 10-15 minutes twice a day to lie on your stomach with one to two pillows under your hips. If the pain persists even after applying these remedies, it’s important to consult one of our physical therapists for a thorough evaluation and treatment plan.


2). Careful movements

It’s important to minimize the pressure on your herniated disc. Avoid wearing high heels, sleeping on your stomach and standing or sitting for long periods of time. Additionally, make sure you keep your back straight and use your knees and hips when lifting heavy objects. Lastly, avoid repetitive bending or reaching, and keep good posture while standing and sitting.


3). Exercise

There are special exercises and stretches that help relieve the pain associated with a herniated disc. Our physical therapists can help you learn and perform these exercises properly so that the amount of pressure on your disc and spine is reduced.  As your spinal muscles become stronger, the pressure on the disc will lessen, causing your pain to ease.


4). Physical therapy

In most cases, seeing a physical therapist relieves the pain associated with a herniated disc because they are able to help you train your body to prevent future back and neck pain. If you’re also seeing a physician for your disc pain, then we will communicate with your physician to ensure that you receive optimum care. 


5). Over-the-counter medications

When the pain from a herniated disc is only moderate, an over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication can help relieve inflammation and decrease pain. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen are a few of the most popular choices for OTC pain meds. Because these provide only temporary relief from pain, a doctor should be consulted before making this a part of your daily pain relief regimen.


6). Surgery

This option is reserved for only the most severe cases as most herniated discs can be successfully treated with physical therapy and conservative measures. Many herniated disc surgery options are minimally invasive and have high success rates, but the recovery process can be long. If surgery is needed, physical therapy is necessary to rehabilitate your spinal muscles and improve spinal joint function for a full recovery and prevention of further herniated discs.


There is much that can be done to relieve your back pain or neck pain from a herniated disc. Seeing a physical therapist is the first line of treatment to a successful recovery because they will give you the tools to relieve pain and prevent future injuries . Learn more about our back and neck program today by giving us a call and meeting with one of our experienced physical therapists.

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