How do I Treat a Herniated Disc in the Neck?

Meshell Powell

A herniated disc in the neck occurs when one of the discs in the upper portion of the spine moves out of its proper position. This may occur as a result of trauma or natural disease. Some potential symptoms include head and neck pain or even weakness of the arms or hands. Treatment options may involve the use of prescription or over-the-counter medications, lifestyle changes, and surgery.

A woman with a herniated disc in the neck.
A woman with a herniated disc in the neck.

Neck pain and muscle weakness are common symptoms of a herniated disc in the neck, but other more serious medical conditions, including meningitis, may have similar symptoms. For this reason, an accurate and prompt diagnosis is extremely important. All persistent neck pain should be reported to a medical professional right away.

A woman wearing a cervical collar for a herniated disc.
A woman wearing a cervical collar for a herniated disc.

Resting the neck is the first step in treating a herniated disc. In many cases, the injury will heal on its own as long as no further stress or injury occurs. Neck braces or cervical collars are occasionally used to stabilize the neck and upper portion of the spine during the healing process.

An ice pack, which can help reduce pain from a herniated disc.
An ice pack, which can help reduce pain from a herniated disc.

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen are commonly used to treat the pain and discomfort associated with a herniated disc in the neck. These medications can help to reduce some of the pressure on the nerves in the neck, leading to a reduction in symptoms. In some situations, over-the-counter medications may not provide an adequate level of pain relief. If this is the case, the healthcare provider may prescribe stronger pain medications.

Heat and ice therapies are popular treatment options for this condition. Some medical professionals differ as to which method they prefer, and it is generally accepted that both ice and heat therapies have roughly the same levels of success in treating this type of pain. The patient should use the method that provides the most relief. Whether using an ice pack or a heating pad, this type of therapy should be used for only about 15 minutes at a time and can be used several times per day.

In severe cases involving a herniated disc in the neck, surgical intervention may become necessary. Less invasive therapy methods are generally attempted first, but if the injury is severe or does not respond well to other methods of treatment, surgery may be the best treatment method. Surgery can be performed to either repair damaged discs or, in some cases, the damaged disc may need to be replaced with a synthetic replacement.

A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.
A healthy spine and a spine with a herniated disc.

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Discussion Comments


@fBoyle-- When I have neck stiffness and pain due to my hernia, I apply a hot pack first and then have my daughter give me gentle massage with a herbal balm. But do not do this without checking with your doctor first. Massage, if done at the wrong time or if done too harshly, can make your hernia worse. You have to be very careful. I don't think it's a good idea to go to a massage salon because those people are not medical experts and may not know what they are doing.

Have you received physical therapy? I highly recommend seeing a physical therapist. There are some neck movements that a physical therapist can use to relieve pain. He or she may be able to teach you some herniated disc exercises that you can do at home as well.


Has anyone tried massage for herniated disc symptoms? Is it safe?


I developed a ruptured disc in my neck after a car accident. My car was hit by a truck from behind when I was waiting at a red light.

I developed chronic neck pain after this incident and the hernia was diagnosed with an MRI. I took pain relievers for some time, I also went to physical therapy. Thankfully, I'm doing much better now. I still experience pain once in a while, but I wear a soft cervical brace when that happens. I also wear the brace when I'm doing activities where I have to look down a lot, like knitting. Keeping the neck in the right posture seems to prevent pain.

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