Physical therapy for a herniated disc can hurt like mad, so here is what you should do if you dread the PT.

It can be challenging for a person, who’s in pain from a herniated disc, to stick to physical therapy if the exercises or movements aggravate the pain.

This is particularly the case for those individuals who have never been able to embrace a regular exercise program — people who hate exercise.

When they are faced with physical therapy for a herniated disc, they’ll see it as a drudgery.

But when the PT comes with pain, this easily results in a non-compliant patient who will either quit going to the PT’s office, or who will stop doing any prescribed home exercises.

Physical Therapy for Disc Herniation Hurts: What to Do

For this article I consulted with spinal and orthopedic surgeon Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery, laminectomies and spinal fusions, and is author of the book, “Keys to an Amazing Life: Secrets of the Cervical Spine.”

Dr. Hansraj explains, “In my hands, I separate physical therapy into two types in the management of an acute or painful herniated disc.”

Feel Good Treatments

“First, I recommend physical therapy which includes massages, modalities such as hot packs and cold packs, and soft tissue treatments such as myofascial releases. These ‘feel good’ treatments diminish pain, helping the patient to feel better.

Standard PT

“Second, when the patient is better and is able to ambulate, then I recommend standard physical therapy including range of motion and strengthening.”

If there is still pain, the patient needs to know that some degree of discomfort is normal. But it shouldn’t be piercing, stabbing or severe to the point where the movements are unbearable.

Doing nothing will not solve the problem for a herniated disc that’s already causing pain.

Dr. Hansraj is an orthopedic surgeon in Poughkeepsie, NY, and is affiliated with St. Francis Hospital-Roslyn. He received his medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine and has been in practice for 20+ years.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.