Herniated discs can cause pain and swelling by compressing the nerve roots. There are many options. The severity of your symptoms will determine the medication you need. It is important to remember that medications and drugs will not heal a herniated disc. They may ease the symptoms.
You should consult your doctor before you take any medication or drug. Most people will start with over-the-counter medication and then move on to prescription drugs if necessary. Spinal injections can be used to provide pain relief if you are still experiencing discomfort.
Herniated Discs Treatment
Most people feel relief within days to weeks with conservative treatment, which consists of modifying activities that cause pain and taking pain medications.
Herniated Discs Medications
- Nonprescription pain medication. Your doctor may recommend non-prescription pain medications if your pain is moderate to severe.
- Neuropathic drugs. These drugs reduce pain by affecting nerve impulses. These drugs include gabapentin, pregabalin, Horizant and Neurontin, duloxetine, Cymbalta, Drizalma sprinkle, or venlafaxine, Effexor XR.
- Muscle relaxers. These may be prescribed if you suffer from muscle spasms. Side effects include dizziness and sedation.
- Opioids. Many doctors are reluctant to prescribe opioids for disc herniation due to the possible addiction and side effects. If other medications don’t relieve your pain, your doctor might consider short-term use of opioids, such as codeine or an oxycodone-acetaminophen combination (Percocet, Oxycet). These drugs can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, confusion, constipation, and sedation.
- Cortisone injections. Your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections if your pain does not improve with oral medication. The needle can be guided by spinal imaging.
Herniated Discs: Over-the-Counter Medications
Acetaminophen is an Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) that can be used to protect your first line of defense. It’s not right for everyone. Acetaminophen can be a painkiller but it won’t lower inflammation.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs ) are available over-the-counter. They relieve pain and decrease inflammation. This is why they differ from Acetaminophen. Aspirin, Advil, and naproxen are all examples of NSAIDs. Some NSAIDs may not be suitable for people who have had heart attacks or stomach ulcers in the past.
Prescription Medications For Herniated Discs
Prescription NSAIDs: Prescription-strength NSAIDs are available if the over-the-counter variety proves unsuccessful.
Muscle relaxants: Herniated discs can often cause muscle spasms. A muscle relaxant might be helpful in such situations.
Oral steroids: These oral steroids, also known as corticosteroids, may reduce swelling. These drugs are only prescribed for short-term use. Steroids have been linked to numerous adverse side effects.
Narcotic pain medication (opioids): These medications are used to relieve acute and/or severe pain. Many patients will develop tolerance to opioids, and may require greater doses of pain medication to feel relief. These pain medications can be addictive so it is important to use them under close supervision.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants prevent pain messages from reaching your brain and increase endorphins. Endorphins are your body’s natural painkillers. Another added benefit–antidepressants help you sleep better.
Spinal Injections to Herniated Discs
Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents that relieve pain from compressed nerves. The medication is administered within the epidural nerve area and can provide significant pain relief. However, it may take several days for the medication to kick in. Injections should not exceed three per year.
Alert on Medications
Side effects are common with medication. You should consider these factors when deciding what medicine to try. Talk to your doctor about all medications, even if they are over-the-counter. You should also remember that pain relief and injections are not the only options for treating herniated disc pain. The best results will be achieved if you incorporate physical therapy and exercise into your treatment.