Medications for a torn disc

A torn disc can cause symptoms like burning, shooting pains, tingling, numbness, weakness and muscle spasms in your arms and legs. While there are several pain medications for a torn disc available to you, always consult with your doctor to find out which ones are best for your situation.

Why is a torn disc painful?

The type of medication your doctor suggests might depend on how severe your symptoms are. Let’s first discuss what makes the condition painful.

The spinal discs cushion the vertebrae and act as shock absorbers for the body. To do this they are made up of a gel-like inner material that’s contained in a fibrous outer layer. As we age, the spinal discs dehydrate, which causes them to lose their elasticity.

A torn disc develops if the outer wall of the disc breaks or cracks open, which can cause the inner disc material to push out into the spinal canal. This condition, also known as a herniated or ruptured disc, may be painful if the extruded material compresses the spinal cord or a nerve root. Pain may be evident at the area of compression and other symptoms of numbness, weakness, tingling, cramping and pain can radiate into the limbs.

Types of medications

Upon diagnosis, your doctor may recommend medications based on your level of discomfort. The following are a few pain medications used to treat mild to severe torn disc pain:

  • NSAIDs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. They are generally used to treat mild to moderate pain by reducing inflammation.
  • Acetaminophen. This form of over-the-counter pain medicine, also called Tylenol, works to block certain pain receptors in the brain.
  • Opioids. Opioids are narcotic drugs such as morphine and codeine that are commonly used to treat moderate to severe pain. Stronger forms, such as oxycodone, may effectively relieve severe torn disc symptoms, but should be used with extreme caution.
  • Selective nerve root block (SNRB). A mixture of a steroid and anesthetic is injected into or around the compressed nerve. The anesthetic serves to numb the affected area, while the steroid may help reduce irritation and inflammation. These injections are typically used in cases of moderate to severe pain. In addition, SNRBs are often used as a diagnostic tool help find which nerves are causing pain.
  • Epidural steroid injection. An epidural injection is slightly different from an SNRB, as the blend of steroid and anesthetic is injected into the epidural space that surrounds the spinal cord. These are generally recommended for severe pain to allow patients to be able to complete physical therapy and exercise to help the healing process.

Laser Spine Institute

Medications for a torn disc, as well as other conservative treatments like massage or physical therapy, may not be successful in treating your symptoms. If you have been recommended for surgery but want an alternative to a highly invasive traditional open back procedure, consider Laser Spine Institute and our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures. These procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and offer a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.^ Our orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons use muscle-sparing techniques that have helped more than 75,000 people find relief from neck and back pain since 2005.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today to receive a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.