Most cases of lumbar herniated disc symptoms resolve on their own within six weeks, so patients are often advised to start with non-surgical treatments. However, this can vary with the nature and severity of symptoms.

Watch Video: Can Herniated Discs Heal on Their Own?

Pain medication at the onset of pain can be helpful. Watch: Lumbar Herniated Disc Treatment Video

Initial Pain Control for a Lumbar Herniated Disc

Controlling the intense pain is the most urgent need when symptoms first appear. Initial pain control options are likely to include:

  • Ice application. Application of ice or a cold pack may be helpful to ease initial inflammation and muscle spasms associated with a lumbar herniated disc. An ice massage can also be helpful. Ice is most effective for the first 48 hours after the back pain has started.
  • See Ice Massage for Back Pain Relief

  • Pain medications. The doctor may recommend non-prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen to treat pain and inflammation.
  • See NSAIDs: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

  • Muscle relaxants. Muscle spasms may accompany a lumbar herniated disc, and these prescription medications may offer relief from the painful spasms.
  • See Muscle Relaxants: List of Common Muscle Relaxers

  • Heat therapy. Applying heat can help relieve painful muscle spasms after the first 48 hours. Heating pads, a hot compress, and adhesive heat wraps are all good options. Moist heat, such as a hot bath, may be preferred.
  • See Benefits of Heat Therapy for Lower Back Pain

  • Heat and ice. Some people find alternating hot and cold packs provides the maximum pain relief.

Bed rest for severe pain is best limited to one or two days, as extended rest will lead to stiffness and more pain. After that point, light activity and frequent movement—with rest breaks as needed—is advised. Heavy lifting and strenuous exercise should be avoided.

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Additional Therapies for Lumbar Herniated Disc

These other therapies are often helpful for longer-term pain relief:

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The treatment options for a lumbar herniated disc will largely depend on the length of time the patient has had symptoms and the severity of the pain. Specific symptoms (such as weakness or numbness), and the age of the patient may also be factors.