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Non-Surgical Ways to Treat a Herniated Disc

Despite what you may have been lead to believe, disc problems aren’t just an inevitable side effect of aging. If you’re living with severe pain in your spine due to the symptoms of a slipped disc, you’re not alone. Believe it or not, drugs and surgery aren’t your only options for addressing acute pain. Here are some non-surgical ways to treat a herniated disc.

What is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc, sometimes called a slipped disc, refers to a condition of the spine whereby one or more of the vertebra have slipped out of their natural alignment. When this happens, severe pain can result as a result of a pinched nerve. A herniated disc can be located anywhere from the base of the skull to the top of the buttocks. Slipped discs often occur in the lower back but may also be noticed in the neck and upper back.

What Causes a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc can be caused by everyday movements such as bending and lifting. A slipped disc may also be caused by a sports injury or car accident. The pain isn’t always noticed right away after an injury or accident. This is why so many people are placed in neck braces after minor car accidents. Injuries can show up days, weeks, or even months later.

What are the Symptoms of a Slipped Disc?

The symptoms of a slipped disc will vary depending on where on your spine the disc is slipped. The most common symptoms of a slipped disc are:

  • Shooting Pain
  • Chronic Muscle Spasms
  • Headache (Cervical Herniated Disc)
  • Numbness/Tingling in Arms or Legs
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Difficulty Grasping Objects (Cervical Herniated Disc)

Non-Surgical Ways to Treat a Herniated Disc

If your doctor has done an X-Ray and diagnosed you with a slipped disc, chances are he may have suggested surgery. I was diagnosed with a slipped disc back in 2003 from a car accident and I was told I’d eventually need surgery. Thankfully, I haven’t as of yet.

Here are a few non-surgical ways to treat a herniated disc:

Physical Therapy

When you have a slipped disc causing you severe pain, you want to get out of that pain as soon as possible. Taking pain-killers and muscle relaxants may be a temporary solution but to fix the problem, you should start with physical therapy. A physical therapist uses gentle body and spinal manipulations to relax tense muscles and ease injured discs back into place. This can take a period of several weeks to months to work but it’s a good non-surgical option to try.

Massage Therapy

Once your body has recovered a bit from the physical therapy and the severe pain you’ve been suffering has subsided, you might want to try massage therapy for maintenance. Massage therapy uses gentle strokes and kneading motions to ease your muscles into relaxation. Massage therapy also helps improve your immune system function and encourages your ailing body to heal itself.


Severe pain has often been successfully treated by an ancient Chinese modality of medicine called acupuncture. In acupuncture, it is believed that when blockages in our life-force energy or ‘chi’ occur, pain and illness result.

Acupuncture uses fine, hollow-pointed needles to stimulate certain areas on your body called meridians to release these chi blockages so your body can heal itself. In most cases, the needles do not hurt at all. You may experience a slight sting in some meridians where a large amount of blocked chi is concentrated.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

When you’re living with chronic pain, it’s important to take care of your body from within. Slipped disc will mean chronic inflammation. One of the primary supplemental combatants of inflammation is omega 3 fatty acids. Taken in the form of krill oil, omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce the inflammation and pain caused by slipped disc. They can also increase joint flexibility and mobility.


If you’re looking for a natural pain killer for your herniated disc, you can count on boswellia. According to research, the natural herb boswellia was effective in treating patients living with the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis. Boswellia has even been known to ease the symptoms associated with the autoimmune disease fibromyalgia.

Those who are currently taking prescription pain medication or blood thinners should contact their doctor before taking boswellia or any other natural herb.

Cayenne Pepper

Severe pain sufferers have long turned to cayenne pepper for its natural pain-reliving and inflammation-reducing properties. The secret ingredient in cayenne pepper is capsicum.

Research has suggested that capsicum used topically can help treat chronic low back pain. This doesn’t mean you have to pour cayenne pepper directly on your neck or back. Instead, add it to your diet and turn to natural capsicum cream to use on your skin. The combined effect should bring relief.

I know when I get really bad inflammation in my shoulder I drink about ¼ of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper in four ounces of warm water. It took a while to get used to but it helps. Patients on blood thinners should not use cayenne pepper without first consulting their doctor.

Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is the cheapest, effective natural Godsend for chronic pain sufferers! I can’t say enough about the stuff. I recommend everybody use it. But hold on: If you’re pregnant, diabetic or allergic to sulphur, you cannot use Epsom salt unless you consult your doctor.

For those of you who don’t fall under this category, pick up a box of Epsom salt (located on the first aid aisle of any store), come home and dump 1-4 cups of it into a bath as hot as you can stand it. Sink into it and relax. Note: If you are taking muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety medication or sleep medications, do not get into a bath this hot unless someone is with you. You could pass out and drown.

Another alternative to a healing Epsom salt bath is a hot Epsom salt pack. Take a piece of plastic and lay it down on your bed or where you plan to rest. Take ¼ cup of Epsom salt and put it in a wash cloth. Run very hot water over it. Squeeze out the excess water and place the cloth over the affected area and relax. Repeat as often as necessary. Be sure to stay hydrated when using Epsom salt as it tends to dry you out.

Neck-Strengthening Exercises (Cervical Spine)

Something that saved me from continued severe pain when I was diagnosed with a herniated disc in my cervical spine is simple neck-strengthening exercises. Here’s what I’ve been doing periodically to help with my neck:

  1. Lace your fingers together and place them behind your head. Push forward gently for a count of five seconds. Release.
  2. Keeping your fingers laced together, place them on your forehead. Push backward gently for a count of five seconds. Release.
  3. Place your right palm against the right side of your head. Push to the left gently for a count of five seconds. Release.
  4. Place your left palm against the left side of your head. Push to the right gently for a count of five seconds. Release.
  5. Grab your chin with your right index finger and thumb. Push gently downward and hold for a period of five seconds. Release.
  6. Grab your chin with your left index finger and thumb. Push gently downward and hold for a period of five seconds. Release.
  7. Move your head gently from side to side two times.
  8. Repeat these procedures 5 times.

Disc problems don’t just disappear overnight. It’s important to keep gently at it until your neck gets stronger and your chronic inflammation goes down.

If your disc problems are more lower-back related, try some of these back pain exercises with pictures.

Severe pain is what it is, severe. If you’re living with acute pain because of a herniated disc in your neck or back, it may be unbearable. You may think you need to depend on prescription pain killers for the rest of your life in order to cope. Or you might think surgery is your only option.

Try these methods to heal disc problems if you’re able, do some more research, and become your best advocate. Get a second or third opinion if you have to. I did. And though I sometimes still live with pain, I feel I’m healthier for treating it naturally.

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