What Treatment can Help Heal a Herniated Disc?

A. Pasbjerg
A. Pasbjerg
A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.
A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.

There are many treatments which can be used to help heal a herniated disc. Perhaps the most critical type of treatment is plain rest; a damaged disc needs time to recover and it is important to minimize activity that can further aggravate it immediately after it is injured. Reducing the inflammation and relaxing the muscles around the injury can also help promote healing, and this may be achieved in several ways, including application of heat or cold, massage, or medication. Once the acute recovery phase is over, physical therapy can be used to strengthen the back to support the disc and prevent further injury. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to make a full recovery.

A herniated disc will usually heal itself quickly with rest.
A herniated disc will usually heal itself quickly with rest.

In order to fix a herniated disc, patients must minimize activity for a period of time. This gives the disc a chance to recover and decreases the chances of further damage. Bed rest on a firm mattress may be recommended for up to several weeks, depending on the severity of the herniation. Patients should lay in a position most comfortable to them, either on their back or side, with a pillow under or between their knees if it helps relieve pain.

A hot bath may be an effective treatment for a herniated disc.
A hot bath may be an effective treatment for a herniated disc.

Decreasing inflammation and muscle tension around the injured part of the spine is another method used to help heal a herniated disc. Drugs including NSAIDs, steroids, and muscle relaxants may all be used for these purposes, as well as for providing relief from the pain typically associated with a herniated disc. Application of heat or cold using a heating pad or ice packs works for some patients; a hot shower or bath may also be effective. Some patients also benefit from a gentle massage of the muscles around the disc.

In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a herniated disc.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a herniated disc.

Physical therapy often plays a role in helping to heal a herniated disc. Stretching and strengthening the muscles in the back can provide support for the spine, including the injured area, allowing it to heal more effectively and decreasing the chances of another injury later on. Some patients may benefit from wearing a brace for a period of time to provide support until their back is stronger and the initial healing phase is complete.

A hot shower may effectively reduce inflammation and muscle tension around a herniated disc.
A hot shower may effectively reduce inflammation and muscle tension around a herniated disc.

When less conservative treatments fail to heal a herniated disc, surgery may be required. This is often the course of action taken when patients have ongoing, severe pain or neurological symptoms. Procedures may include removing some or all of the disc, and possibly fusion of the vertebrae.

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Discussion Comments

candyquilt

@literally45-- Acupuncture can be a herniated disc treatment option. People say that acupuncture needles can relieve pressure from nerves. I know someone who relieved her herniated disc symptoms with acupuncture but I don't think it works for everyone. You might want to speak to an experienced acupuncturist about it.

I have a herniated disc as well. I've thought about acupuncture but I want to try other treatments like physical therapy first.

Also, have you tried heat? My back seems to love heat. I usually have pain and stiffness when I don't stay warm. I've been using hot water bags on my back. I experience immediate relief when I use heat.

literally45

Has anyone here tried acupuncture for herniated disc pain? Does it work?

SteamLouis

Rest is definitely the most important treatment for a herniated disc. Trying to stay active and doing incorrect movements like bending over, lifting things and carrying weights will only make the injury worse.

When my herniated disc was diagnosed, I could not walk or sit for long periods of time. Lying down was the best and most comfortable posture for me. I used a pillow under my knees when laying on my back and between my legs when laying on my side for extra support. I did get up once every few hours and walked around the house. When my pain decreased, I also took short walks in the neighborhood. All of these helped a lot, but I never strained myself.

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    • A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.
      By: Alila
      A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.
    • A herniated disc will usually heal itself quickly with rest.
      By: april_89
      A herniated disc will usually heal itself quickly with rest.
    • A hot bath may be an effective treatment for a herniated disc.
      By: Gennadiy Poznyakov
      A hot bath may be an effective treatment for a herniated disc.
    • In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a herniated disc.
      By: lightwavemedia
      In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a herniated disc.
    • A hot shower may effectively reduce inflammation and muscle tension around a herniated disc.
      By: katehillphoto
      A hot shower may effectively reduce inflammation and muscle tension around a herniated disc.
    • Application of a heat pack may work for some people dealing with a herniated disc.
      By: Gina Sanders
      Application of a heat pack may work for some people dealing with a herniated disc.
    • Massage can help treat a herniated disc.
      By: smuay
      Massage can help treat a herniated disc.