The cartilage that surrounds a spinal disc sometimes pushes out through a tear and enters the spine, irritating spinal nerves. This irritation causes back pain that can be debilitating. Fortunately, with care, the herniated disc will eventually heal on its own. Until the disc heals, the only real concern is over how much pain relief the patient can receive. For those who want to avoid conventional treatments such as anti-inflammatory and pain-relief medications that have harmful side effects, alternative remedies such as heat therapy and spinal manipulation are helpful.
Cold therapy involves applying a cold object to the herniated disc. Coldness decreases the ability of the nerves in the back to transmit pain signals and increase the body’s release of endorphins. Coldness also narrows the blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the disc and thus reducing potential swelling. Cold packs or bags of frozen peas can be applied to the location of the pain for 10 to 15 minutes.
Strengthening the abdomen by performing stomach crunches can help stabilize the back. Performing the hamstring stretch, which involves placing your foot on an elevated surface and reaching toward the foot, also stretches the lower back, relieving tension that can contribute to the inflammation around the herniated disc. Aerobic exercise relaxes the body and relieves muscle tension and also releases endorphins, which are natural pain-killers. Deep breathing and other relaxation techniques can also relieve the pain caused by inflammation and tension.
Spinal manipulation relieves some pain caused by a herniated disc. Spinal manipulation involves a chiropractor using his hands to move the spine around on the back. This practice has no harmful side effects other than a headache and discomfort in the area where the pain is located. While this practice does not cure a herniated disc, it does provide some relief.
Heat therapy dilates blood vessels, which reduces the amount of blood flow to the inflamed area. Heat therapy also relieves stiff muscles by stretching the muscle fibers. Heat-therapy products include hot water bottles, heating pads, heat wraps and hot water. Simply apply the heated object to the area where disc pain is felt. Do not use heat therapy if it causes more pain, if there is an open wound on your back, or if you have diabetes, dermatitis, deep vein thrombosis or peripheral vascular disease.