Herniated Disc
Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Possible Symptoms for Herniated Disc

Symptoms of a herniated disc may include:[1]

Ruptured discs can occur in any part of your spine, but they're most common in the neck and lower back.[1] Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some people with a ruptured disc experience no symptoms, while others may suffer from debilitating pain.

Top 3 Herniated Disc Causes

Your spine is made up of many small bones called vertebrae. Rubbery, donut-shaped pieces of tissue known as discs fit between each vertebra. These discs help cushion the bones in your spine.

The outer part of each disc is made up of tough tissue, while the center contains a softer, jelly-like material. Sometimes, the tough exterior tissue may tear, and the soft tissue inside the disc can push through the opening. Doctors call this a "herniated disc."[1] Herniated discs have several possible causes.

1. Disc degeneration

As you get older, the tissue in your body starts to wear down. The tough tissue in your spinal discs weakens and may be more vulnerable to tears. The aging process can also strip the tissues in your body of moisture. Discs that have lower water content are more prone to ruptures and cracks.[1]

2. Lifting a heavy object

Many people develop a ruptured disc after lifting something heavy. Straining your back muscles or twisting your spine can both lead to ruptured discs.[1]

3. Sudden injury

A fall or a hard blow to the back can sometimes cause a ruptured disc.[1] If you recently injured your back, it's essential to see a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor can run tests to rule out serious injuries like spinal fractures.

4 Ways to Prevent Herniated Discs

1. Exercise

Regular exercise helps strengthen your back muscles. Strong back muscles promote flexibility and increase spinal stability, reducing your risk of injury.[1]

2. Have good posture

Bad posture can increase wear-and-tear on your joints and tissues, whereas maintaining good posture helps relieve strain on your spine. Good posture is especially important when sitting for long periods or working at your desk.[1]

3. Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight can put added pressure on your spine and distort your posture. If you're overweight, your doctor can help you develop a safe weight-loss plan to relieve strain on your joints.[1]

4. Use proper lifting techniques

If you need to lift something heavy, use your leg muscles to prevent back injury. Lift objects straight up, rather than twisting and turning as you lift.[1] When in doubt, don't attempt to lift something that may be too heavy. Instead, ask others for help.

Possible Herniated Disc Treatment Options

1. Rest

Many people with herniated discs recover on their own with no special treatment.[1] During your recovery, your doctor may recommend avoiding intense physical activity. Make sure to give your body time to heal. Don't force yourself to perform activities that trigger severe pain.

2. Pain medications

As you wait for your body to heal, your doctor may recommend using pain medications to relieve discomfort. Your doctor may suggest over-the-counter drugs or prescription painkillers.[2]

3. Anticonvulsants

Anticonvulsant medications are often used to treat seizures, but they can also help relieve the nerve pain caused by a herniated disc.[2] However, these drugs may not be safe for everyone. Some groups of people, such as pregnant women, should not take anticonvulsants. Your doctor can help you weigh the risks and benefits of anticonvulsant medications.

4. Muscle relaxers

After a back injury, you may experience painful muscle spasms. Muscle relaxers can help calm muscle spasms and relieve your pain,[2] but these drugs can also cause side effects like dizziness or grogginess. Don't operate heavy machinery until you know how these drugs will affect you.

5. Steroids

Steroid medications can shrink swollen tissues in the spine and relieve back pain caused by inflammation. These medications may be taken by mouth or by injections. If you receive injections, they will often be administered directly into your spine.[2]

6. Physical therapy

Physical therapy can be an excellent treatment option for stubborn back pain. During a physical therapy session, your physical therapist guides you through a series of exercises. Each exercise is designed to strengthen muscles, improve posture, and promote healing.

7. Surgery

If your pain doesn't respond to other treatments, your doctor may suggest surgery to repair or replace the damaged disc. During surgery, your surgeon may replace the disc with an artificial one. He or she may also opt to fuse your spinal bones together, rather than placing an artificial disc.[2]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Herniated Disc Treatment:

  • How severe is your pain?
  • When did your pain begin?
  • What other symptoms are you experiencing?
  • Is this the first time you've experienced back pain?
  • Have you recently fallen or experienced any other kind of injury?
  • Have you lifted any heavy objects recently?
  • What kind of at-home treatments have you tried?

Herniated Disc May Also Be Known as:

  • Slipped disc
  • Ruptured disc


  1. Mayo Clinic. Herniated disk: Symptoms & causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/herniated-disk/symptoms-causes/syc-20354095
  2. Mayo Clinic. Herniated disk: Diagnosis & treatment. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/herniated-disk/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354101

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