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Tips for Relieving Muscle Spasms Caused by a Herniated Disc


8.21 - How Do You Stop Muscle Spasms from a Herniated Disc

A herniated disc is a condition in which the soft inner part of a spinal disc bulges out through a tear in the tough outer layer. This can put pressure on the nearby nerves and cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the back, neck, arms, or legs. Sometimes, a herniated disc can also trigger muscle spasms, which are involuntary contractions of the muscles that can be very painful and even debilitating. Muscle spasms can occur in the muscles near the affected disc or in the muscles that are controlled by the compressed nerve. Muscle spasms can make it difficult to move, sleep, or perform daily activities. They can also worsen the inflammation and nerve irritation caused by the herniated disc.

Fortunately, there are some ways to stop or reduce muscle spasms from a herniated disc. This article discusses some of the most effective methods, such as medication, heat therapy, massage therapy, stretching exercises, and surgery. It also provides some tips on how to prevent muscle spasms from occurring in the first place.


One of the first steps to treat muscle spasms from a herniated disc is to take medication that can relax the muscles and reduce the pain. Some of the common types of medication that can be used for this purpose are:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – These are over-the-counter drugs that can reduce inflammation and pain. Examples are ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and aspirin.
  • Muscle relaxants – These are prescription drugs that can ease muscle spasms and cramps. Examples are cyclobenzaprine, metaxalone, and baclofen.
  • Anticonvulsants – These are prescription drugs that can treat nerve pain and spasms. Examples are gabapentin, pregabalin, and carbamazepine.
  • Narcotics – These are prescription drugs that can relieve severe pain and spasms. Examples are codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.
It is important to follow your doctor's instructions on how to take these medications safely and effectively. Do not take more than the recommended dose or for longer than prescribed. Also, be aware of the possible side effects and interactions of these drugs with other medications or substances.

Heat Therapy

Another way to relieve muscle spasms from a herniated disc is to apply heat to the affected area. Heat can increase blood flow, relax the muscles, and soothe the pain. You can use a heating pad, a hot water bottle, a warm bath, or a steam shower to apply heat to your back, neck, arms, or legs. You can also use topical creams or patches that contain capsaicin, menthol, or camphor to create a warming sensation on your skin.

To use heat therapy safely and effectively, follow these tips:

  • Do not apply heat directly to your skin. Use a towel or cloth to wrap the heat source and prevent burns.
  • Do not apply heat for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Allow your skin to cool down before applying heat again.
  • Do not use heat if you have an open wound, infection, diabetes, poor circulation, or skin sensitivity.
  • Do not use heat if you are pregnant or have a fever.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is another method that can ease muscle spasms from a herniated disc. Massage can increase blood circulation, reduce muscle tension, release endorphins, and promote relaxation. You can get a professional massage from a licensed therapist who can target the specific muscles and nerves that are affected by your herniated disc. You can also perform self-massage using your hands, a foam roller, a tennis ball, or a massage device.

To use massage therapy safely and effectively, follow these tips:

  • Do not massage areas that are swollen, bruised, infected, or have skin lesions.
  • Do not massage areas that have blood clots or tumors.
  • Do not massage areas that have metal implants or pacemakers.
  • Do not massage too hard or too fast. Use gentle pressure and slow strokes.
  • Do not massage for more than 10 minutes at a time. Stop if you feel any pain or discomfort.

Stretching Exercises

Stretching exercises are another technique that can prevent and reduce muscle spasms from a herniated disc. Stretching can increase flexibility, range of motion, posture, and alignment of the spine and muscles. Stretching can also prevent stiffness and soreness after periods of inactivity or prolonged sitting. 

You can perform stretching exercises at home, at work, and before and after physical activity. You can also consult a physical therapist who can design a customized stretching program for your specific condition and goals.

To perform stretching exercises safely and effectively, follow these tips:

  • Do not stretch cold muscles. Warm up for at least 10 minutes before stretching to prevent injury and increase effectiveness.
  • Do not stretch beyond your comfort level. Stretch only to the point of mild tension, not pain.
  • Do not bounce or jerk while stretching. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and breathe normally.
  • Do not overstretch. Stretch only the muscles that are tight or spasming, not the ones that are already relaxed or weak.
  • Do not stretch if you have a severe injury, inflammation, infection, or fracture.


Surgery is often the last resort for treating muscle spasms from a herniated disc. Surgery may be considered when conservative treatments have failed to provide relief and when the herniated disc is causing severe nerve compression, weakness, numbness, or loss of bladder or bowel control. Surgery involves removing part or all of the herniated disc to relieve the pressure on the nerve and restore normal function. There are different types of surgery for herniated discs, such as:

  • Discectomy – This is the most common type of surgery for herniated discs. It involves removing the herniated portion of the disc through a small incision in the back or neck.
  • Laminectomy – This is a type of surgery that involves removing part of the bone (lamina) that covers the spinal canal to create more space for the nerve.
  • Spinal fusion – Spinal fusion surgery involves joining two or more vertebrae together with metal rods, screws, or cages to stabilize the spine and prevent further disc herniation.
  • Artificial disc replacement – This is a type of surgery that involves replacing the damaged disc with an artificial one made of metal or plastic.

Surgery for herniated discs has some risks and complications, such as infection, bleeding, nerve damage, spinal instability, failed back syndrome, or recurrence of symptoms. Therefore, it is important to weigh the benefits and risks of surgery with your doctor before deciding to undergo it.


The best way to avoid muscle spasms from a herniated disc is to prevent a herniated disc from occurring in the first place. Some of the preventive measures you can take are:

  • Maintain a healthy weight – Excess weight can put extra pressure on your spine and discs and increase the risk of herniation.
  • Exercise regularly – Physical activity can strengthen your core muscles that support your spine and discs and improve your posture and balance.
    Avoid smoking – Smoking can reduce blood flow to your spine and discs and make them more prone to degeneration and injury.
  • Practice good posture – Avoid slouching, hunching, or bending your neck or back excessively. Use ergonomic chairs, desks, keyboards, and monitors when working or studying. Use proper lifting techniques when carrying heavy objects.
  • Avoid repetitive or strenuous activities that can strain your spine and discs – Take frequent breaks and change positions when sitting or standing for long periods. Modify your activities or use protective equipment when playing sports or doing hobbies.
Muscle spasms caused by a herniated disc can be debilitating, but they are not insurmountable. By understanding the underlying causes and employing a combination of rest, gentle movement, therapies, and medical interventions when necessary, you can effectively manage and even prevent muscle spasms. 

If you have a herniated disc that is not responding to conservative treatment, a discectomy or less invasive microdiscectomy may be discussed and potentially recommended. Although this is generally a very successful procedure, having a large hole in the outer ring of the disc more than doubles the risk of needing another operation. A new treatment, Barricaid, is a bone-anchored device that closes this hole, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is performed immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital.


To learn more about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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