How a Herniated Disc Is Treated (2022 Complete Guide)

A Herniated Disc is an extremely common problem. So common, in fact, that 1 in 10 people will suffer from sciatica at some point in their lives and the vast majority of those cases are caused by a herniated disc. Today, we’re going to talk about how a herniated disc is treated, the symptoms someone with this problem might get and the ideal treatment to get it better as fast as possible!

How a Herniated Disc is Treated

When we talk about treatment for a herniated disc, we need to split this category into two parts:

  1. Lifestyle
  2. Exercise

Before we go any further, in the following video, I’ll share 8 effective strategies to SPEED UP the recovery of a bulging disc or herniated disc naturally:

How a Herniated Disc is Treated Part #1: Lifestyle

Diet

It’s crucial that you optimise your diet for a recovery from a herniated disc.

This involves maximising anti-inflammatory foods: click HERE to learn more about anti-inflammatory foods for a herniated disc.

You’ll also need to minimise pro-inflammatory foods: click HERE to learn about which foods to AVOID when you have a herniated disc.

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General Activity

You need to keep generally active. This means not taking too much time off work.

You should try to walk as much as you can within the realms of comfort. Stop when pain starts, have a break, then get back to it.

One of my clients used to leave his house, walk up the road 100 yards, then come back. That was it for each day. But even those few hundred steps made a huge difference over a number of weeks.

Little and often is key – don’t overdo it. Make sure you stop as soon as your pain starts to worsen. Each day, you’ll be able to build your activity level gradually.

Hydration

Drinking plenty of water is absolutely crucial. When you have a herniated disc compressing a nerve, any dehydration in that disc will make the compression worse.

This means that drinking 3-4 litres of water each day is critical to your success and a highly undervalued facet of recovery.

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Sleep

Getting as much sleep as possible is incredibly important when you have sciatica (although, sciatica can make sleep more difficult unfortunately).

Sleep is one of the key parts of a recovery from a herniated disc – sleep is when healing occurs. It’s impossible to get better without ample sleep each night.

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One helpful tip to remember is that you can make up for lost hours of sleep as a nap if your pain tends to be worse at night. A 20-minute nap has been shown to be as effective as two hours of extra sleep in the morning in terms of restoration, some research shows.

Click HERE for a brief guide on sleeping better when you have sciatica.

Minimising Discomfort to Speed Up Recovery

Getting better from a herniated disc is just as much about avoiding making the problem worse as it is about doing extra things.

As a general rule of thumb, if an activity or position is making your pain worse, you need to change it or you run the risk of delaying your herniated disc recovery time. 

Products That Can Help a Herniated Disc

For a herniated disc, there are a number of products that can help you go about your day with less pain and more comfort. Here are a few of my top recommended products for treating sciatica:

#1 – TENS Machine

TENS machines are useful for providing relief from pain and muscle spasms in the back and legs. They are a safe and effective way of relieving your symptoms without any effort on your part.

Below are 3 of my top recommended TENS machines for relief from sciatica:

TENSCare Perfect TENS Pain Relief Machine

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This TENS machine for sciatica has 8 preset programs so you don’t need to “tune it” yourself – just pick a setting and off you go!

There is an option to purchase a ‘Value Pack’ which includes spare pads which I would definitely recommend.

Click HERE to view the TENSCare Perfect TENS Pain Relief Machine on Amazon US (closest match)

Click HERE to view the TENSCare Perfect TENS Pain Relief Machine on Amazon UK

TPN 200 Plus TENS Machine

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A super-simple yet sleek design, this TENS machine is perfect for those who want a highly effective model and are confident with using a TENS machine for sciatica pain relief.

This unit doesn’t have a fancy display, so you can customize the settings to best suit your needs, tweaking and changing the frequency until you find one that works best for you.

Click HERE to view the TPN 200 Plus TENS Machine on Amazon UK

Click this link here to read about our 10 Best Recommended TENS Machines for Sciatica!

#2 – Lumbar Roll

A lumbar roll is a specially designed cushion that goes behind your lower back when sitting.

It increases the curve in the lower back, which many people find takes pressure off a herniated disc when sitting (which can be the worst position for a lot of people).

Here is a great option for a lumbar roll for the office, car and home:

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Click HERE to view the Supportiback® Posture Therapy Lumbar Support Cushion on Amazon

#3 – How to Treat a Herniated Disc with Topical Creams

There are a number of rubs and creams that can help to relieve pain from sciatica. In this section of the article, I’m going to share with you which products I believe to be the best creams for sciatica pain relief.

Always consult your doctor before starting any new medication, including creams.

Best Cream for How to Treat a Herniated Disc – Voltarol 

Click HERE to view Voltarol cream for sciatica pain relief Amazon US

Click HERE to view Voltarol cream for sciatica pain relief Amazon UK

This product contains an anti-inflammatory that helps to calm any inflammation around the affected nerve root when someone is suffering from a herniated disc.

What’s more, it also contains a natural product that will help to relax hyper-tense muscles and reduce pain, as well as provide a soothing effect to the area.

For this reason, I would place it as my go-to and best cream for herniated disc pain relief.

Second Best Cream for Treating Herniated Disc – 5Kind Hemp Active Gel

View this product on Amazon here

Hemp-based products have grown in popularity over the last few years. I always keep a close eye on the research regarding hemp and CBD – and the research shows mixed results.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard great things from users of hemp gel as a cream for sciatica pain relief, and I had one client that used it to relieve back pain to great effect.

The product shown is one of the best on the market right now with over 11,000 ratings and an average of 4.5/5 stars!

Third Best Cream for Treating a Herniated Disc – FourFive CBD Muscle Rub

Click HERE to view this cream for sciatica pain relief on Amazon

I was never convinced by the CBD craze when it all began, but I am starting to see more compelling evidence for its use in some people, in some cases.

While I don’t believe CBD to be “magic”, I do feel this product has potential to relieve some of the muscle pain experienced in the lower back for many people with sciatica.

That is why this product makes it onto the list of the best creams for herniated disc pain relief. Check out the reviews of this product – they are outstanding, with a perfect 5-star rating.

What Other Products Can Help in Treatment of a Herniated Disc?

I’m a big believer in the power of improving your general health when it comes to herniated disc treatment and pain relief.

If you’re struggling with your mobility due to a herniated disc, one thing that might help is to address other general health issues like your weight, your diet and your general exercise.

If you’d like some tips on how to improve all of those aspects of your health, stave off injury and treat problems like arthritis, why not grab a copy of my brand new book, Thriving Beyond Fifty? You can see more details below:

Top Tip: Grab a copy of my #1 Best-Selling book, Thriving Beyond Fifty for more health, wellness and recovery strategies! 

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How a Herniated Disc is Treated: Exercises

The most important thing to understand when it comes to a herniated disc and exercise is that everyone is different; a suitable exercise regime for one person with a herniated disc will be different for another with the same problem.

However, there are some exercises that are commonly useful for many people with a herniated disc.

Only choose exercises that are non-painful and don’t make your symptoms worse during and after you finish the exercise.

Always go gently at first and build up slowly. Check with your GP before starting any new exercise programme. 

The exercises provided on this page for informational purposes only and are not designed to be a ‘prescription’ of any kind. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before you begin any new exercise programme.

#1 – Cobra Pose

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Instructions:

  • Begin laying face-down on a firm surface like a mat on the floor or a hard mattress
  • Place your hands in line with your shoulders and gently push up, raising your torso off the floor
  • Keep your hips down on the floor
  • Only go as far as is comfortable – no need to get to full extension for a benefit!
  • Gently lower yourself to the starting position and repeat up to a maximum of 10 times.
  • Do a set of these 3-4 times per day

Who this is for:

Usually, people suffering with a herniated disc find this exercise one of the most useful for improving their symptoms. However, regardless of what is causing your sciatica, you should only persist with this exercise if it is comfortable to perform this movement. This exercise is a good place to start if you have trouble bending forward.

Why this exercise works as treatment for a herniated disc:

This sciatica exercise works because it involves movement of the lower back which encourages blood to flow to the injured area so healing can occur. Some researchers also believe this exercise causes a disc bulge to “centralise” into the disc where it can’t pinch on a nerve root.

#2 – Knee Rolls

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Instructions:

  • Lie on your back on a mat or a firm mattress
  • Bend your knees up halfway
  • Slowly and gently, allow both knees to roll over to one side only as far as is comfortable
  • Bring your knees back to the start position, then allow them to roll over to the opposite direction
  • Repeat for 30-seconds total, don’t rush the repititions and try to find a rhythm
  • Try to find time to do this exercise every 2-3 hours if you can

Who this is for:

This sciatica exercise is great for relieving any tension in tight muscles in the lower back. It is also a great way to begin to regain any lost rotation in the lower back following a herniated disc.

Why this exercise works for treating a herniated disc:

By gently encouraging a slow, controlled rotation of the lower back, the muscles in your lower back will realise that it is OK to relax a little. This will bring about herniated disc pain relief.

#3 – McKenzie Side Bends

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Instructions:

  • Start standing next to a wall. Most people prefer to do this exercise with their painful leg being the one FURTHEST AWAY from the wall. However, try both sides and see which one is most comfortable for you – stick with that one.
  • Use your elbow and forearm to support yourself so you are leaning on the wall (1st picture)
  • Slowly and gently, let your hips “glide” towards the wall while keeping your feet in the same position.
  • Only go as far as is comfortable, then return to the start position.
  • Repeat this 10 times, have a break, and do 3 sets total.
  • If this exercise has worked for you, you may feel rapid relief in the painful leg and possibly slightly worsening back pain – rest assured this is a normal phenomenon.

Who this is for:

This exercise works really well for disc problems and is a mainstay for a treatment approach called “McKenzie”. If you have pain in one leg only from a disc bulge or prolapse, you could try this exercise.  It brings significant sciatica pain relief to many people and can work rapidly.

Why this exercise works for treating a herniated disc:

The McKenzie approach claims to work by encouraging the disc material called the “nucleus pulposus” to re-centralise into it’s inner middle. Whether or not this actually occurs hasn’t been proven in scientific literature but I have seen this exercise provide relief for many. Be sure to choose the direction that is least painful when performing this sciatica exercise.

#4 – Standing Extension

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Instructions:

  • Start standing normally.
  • Gently try to lean back. Only go as far as is comfortable.
  • If you feel able to, use your hands to provide support in the lower back allowing you to extend further (3rd picture)
  • Slowly return to the start position
  • Perform up to 10 repetitions, every few hours or so. Cut your set short as soon as you reach the first signs of pain.

Who this is for:

This is a great sciatica exercise for a herniated disc as well. It works especially well for people who have trouble leaning forward and is a more user-friendly/convenient version of #1 on this list. However, I find it to be slightly less effective compared to the Cobra pose as I find people tend to rely more on pelvic rather than spinal movement with this one.

You should AVOID this exercise if you suffer from arthritis of the lower back or spinal stenosis.

Why this exercise works for treatment of a herniated disc:

This exercise works in a similar way to #1 – it involves movement of the lower back, encouraging blood to flow to the injured area so disc healing can occur. This exercise may help a herniated disc to “centralise” into the inner disc where it can’t pinch on a nerve root.


Other Options for How to Treat a Herniated Disc

Very rarely, surgery is required for a herniated disc. This intervention is reserved for those who have tried everything else and are still suffering.

It’s important to exhaust all non-surgical methods first, as you can’t reverse a surgery and the results from surgery are often underwhelming. Occasionally, surgery can make someone worse which is obviously devastating to hear about.

Another option includes injections, which can give pain relief down the course of the sciatic nerve.  From my experience, these have very underwhelming results for most people. However, they can occasionally be effective.

A further option is a PROVEN exercise programme, like the one below that I proudly support:


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Top Tip: Grab a copy of my #1 Best-Selling book, Thriving Beyond Fifty for more health, wellness and recovery strategies! 

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The information on Overcome Sciatica should never be used as a substitute for medical advice from a doctor. Never put into action any tips or techniques from Overcome Sciatica without checking with your doctor first. Please see full terms of use here.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve found this article helpful. I think it’s useful to understand exactly why you’re suffering the way you are right now from a herniated disc, so the symptoms make more sense. I also hope you find some of the exercises in this article useful.

Remember, how a herniated disc is treated is just as much about managing your day in a way that doesn’t make the symptoms worse as it is about doing exercises to fix it.

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