Five Non-Surgical Home-Based Treatments for A Herniated Disc


Have you ever helped a friend or family member move? And someone tries to pick up something that you know is way too heavy for them to handle on their own? And then someone else always yells “don’t bust a gut!”. But they’re just a little too late? That’s how a hernia is formed. That type of hernia forms because of a weak spot in the abdominal or groin muscles. It’s a painful experience. And the person usually ends up having surgery to repair it.

What is a Herniated Disc?

Now discs are the cushions that sit between each vertebra (bone) in your spine. An injury like lifting something too heavy can cause one of those to develop a hernia as well. Each disc has a ring around it to protect it. If that ring is broken, then a hernia can be the result. This is also a painful experience. These types of hernias usually happen in the lower back, or lumbar spine.

Does this sound like a scary story meant to keep you from lifting something too heavy? You can go ahead and relax now. If you have a disc with a hernia, you don’t need to give up hope. A herniated disc can heal itself within a certain time period. And in the meantime, there are some things you can do at home to help with the pain. And the good news is that they don’t involve surgery.

Non-Surgical Home Remedies for Herniated Disc Pain

If you have a herniated disc in your lumbar spine, the muscles in that area can tense up (spasm). One way to fight this muscle tension, or spasm, is by applying heat or cold to the area. Heat can relax those muscles. And that’s a good thing, because it helps increase blood flow to the area. Cold is also useful because it can reduce any swelling or redness in the area. And that  can reduce the pain you may feel.

Heat is a Good Idea for Most People

It’s a good idea to apply heat to a herniated disc in the morning when you get up. That way the muscles will be more relaxed before you start moving around. You can also apply heat off and on throughout the day. You can use a heating pad, or a hot compress as your source of heat. If you do use one of these, please make sure to put something like a towel between the heating pad/compress and your skin. If you happen to forget that, and leave the heat on for too long, it can burn your skin. You could also try one of those heat wraps that stick to your skin. But be careful with those. If you have sensitive skin, those wraps can burn your skin.

You can even make your own heat pack right at home. Just take an old sock and fill it with dried rice or oatmeal. Then seal up the opening of the sock. Sewing usually works best here. Then all you need to do is pop it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. They hold their heat for a surprisingly long time. They also work great for using around the back of your neck.

Cold Therapy Can Work, Too

If you decide to use cold therapy, it’s best to apply that after you’ve done some stretching or walking around. And don’t forget to use something like a cloth between the cold pack and your skin. An ice pack is the most common type of cold therapy people use. You can also buy these packs that have little crystals inside them. Those are the kind that you twist and squeeze to get the cold working.

Moving Can Ease Some Pain

If you can tolerate it, try doing some moderate physical activity. Exercise will release these chemicals in your brain called endorphins. Endorphins are great because they help you feel better and reduce any pain you might feel.

There are some activities you can try that are low-impact. That means that they don’t put extra stress on your joints. Especially your knees and ankles. If the weather is nice, try walking outside. If it’s not, then try a treadmill if you have access to one.

If you have access to an elliptical machine, those work well. They allow you to put both your feet and your arms into action. And there’s no pressure on your knees and ankles. Or you might try a recumbent. Those are cycles that usually have three wheels. Which makes them easier to pedal because you don’t have to worry about balancing on two wheels.

If your pain is severe, you may want to try some type of water exercise. These types of exercises are normally done in a swimming pool. If you have access to a swimming pool, this type of exercise can work very well. Your body naturally has some buoyancy when in the water. That means that your body can float in the water. Have you ever seen someone pick up someone twice their size in the pool? They can do that because of natural buoyancy. Your body just feels lighter when you’re in the water. The water takes the weight off your joints.

Sleep Matters in Terms of Pain

Would you believe that the position you sleep in can help your pain? Usually this requires lying on your side. You can put a pillow between your legs to help keep your spine straight. Try adjusting your position as well as the pillow until you find a spot that’s comfortable for you.

Have you ever heard someone say they have trouble walking because their sciatica is bothering them? Sciatica is pain that runs down into the leg along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs from the lumbar spine, down both legs. If you experience this type of pain, the goal will be to shift that pain back up into your lumbar spine.

Math Can Ease Some Pain? It Is True

There is a standardized way of approaching and treating low back pain and sciatica. It’s called “The McKenzie Method”. The McKenzie Method is more than just a set of exercises you can do.  In this age of social media, you’ve probably heard the term algorithm thrown around quite a bit. An algorithm is a set mathematical way of solving a problem.

The McKenzie Method is an algorithm. It allows the doctor to identify the problem with your spine so they can treat it properly.

The fifth, and final home remedy for lumbar back pain probably sounds like something from a science fiction movie. It’s called “Myofascial release”, and it’s based on myofascial pain. To put it simply, myofascial pain is the kind felt at certain sensitive points in your muscles. These sensitive points are called “trigger points”.

Once these trigger points are identified, then constant pressure is applied to them for up to two minutes. This process can be repeated for each trigger point that has been identified. At first, your pain may seem worse when you use this method. This should go away with time. When you first start this method, it’s important to ice the affected areas to reduce any pain.

What should I do if none of these home remedies work for me?

If none of these work for you, please reach out to us here at Illinois Pain & Spine Institute. Our experienced pain management professionals are specially trained in working with all types of chronic pain. We also hold the distinction of being the first multi-site pain management clinic in the Chicago area.