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 the neck or back. Between each of the 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 outwards, irritating the nerve exiting at that level. This can be on either side of the spine and depending on the nerve affected in the neck or back, can cause radiating pain, numbness and loss of sensation.

Most people are able to relieve their pain from a herniated disc using medications and physical therapy, with improvements seen in about four to six weeks. However, in cases where the pain is very severe, surgery may be used as a last resort treatment.

Here are common treatment options for relieving herniated disc pain:

1. Exercise! Keep moving!
There are strengthening exercises and stretches, often found in yoga and pilates classes, which help relieve the pain associated with a herniated disc. Our physical therapists can teach you how to perform these exercises  to reduce the pressure on the disc and reduce pressure on the spine associated with poor mobility. As your spinal muscles become stronger, the pressure on the disc should lessen, causing the pain to ease.

2. See a physical therapist
In most cases, seeing a physical therapist relieves the pain associated with a herniated disc and trains your body on prevention of back and neck pain in the future. It’s important to make sure that if you are seeing a physician for your disc problems, that they work in coordination with our physical therapists, so that you can achieve the fastest recovery possible.

3. 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 improve 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.

4. 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, above or below the operated area.

There is much that can be done to relieve your back pain or neck pain from a herniated disc. Physical therapy is the first line of treatment to a successful recovery. Learn more about our back and neck program today by giving us a call at 617-506-7210 for Elliott Physical Therapy in Dorchester and 508-316-0559 for our North Attleboro office and 617-696-8141 for our Milton office and talking to one of our Patient Care Coordinators.