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    What are the Treatments for a Herniated Disk?

    A herniated disk can press on the nerves in your spine and cause pain, weakness, and numbness in your neck, back, arms, and legs. Sometimes these symptoms can be severe enough to disrupt your life.

    Most of the time, though, the problems from your herniated disk should start to improve on their own within a few weeks. In the meantime, try one or more of these treatments to help you feel better.

    Rest

    Take it easy for a few days. Rest can relieve swelling and give your back time to heal. While your back hurts, avoid exercise and other activities where you have to bend or lift.

    Your doctor might suggest that you rest in bed. Bed rest is fine for a short period of time, but don't stay off your feet for longer than 1 or 2 days. You need to keep moving so your joints and muscles don't stiffen up.

    You can also use ice and heat to help relieve your pain. Just place an ice pack or warm wet towel on the area of your back that is sore. You can alternate hot and cold, or use whichever feels best.

    Medications

    Take an over-the-counter pain medicines like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn). These medicines can help relieve your pain and bring down swelling.

    Just don't use these for more than 10 days without talking to your doctor. When used in large amounts or for a long time, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can increase your risk for heart problems or bleeding.

    Narcotics such as codeine or oxycodone-acetaminophen (Percocet) are also short-term options that your doctor may prescribe if over-the-counter meds don’t work.

    Your doctor might also prescribe muscle relaxants to ease muscle spasms in your back. And nerve pain medicines, such as amitriptyline (Elavil, Vanatrip), duloxetine (Cymbalta), gabapentin (Neurontin), pregabalin (Lyrica), and tramadol (Ultram) are options to ease nerve-damage pain.

    Physical Therapy

    Some exercises can help improve the symptoms of a herniated disc. A physical therapist can teach you which ones strengthen the muscles that support your back. Physical therapy programs also include:

    • Stretching exercises to keep your muscles flexible
    • Aerobic exercises -- such as walking or riding a stationary bicycle
    • Massage
    • Ice and heat
    • Ultrasound therapy
    • Electrical muscle stimulation
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