Drugs don’t directly affect a herniated disc, but can reduce pain, muscle spasm, and anxiety.

  1. Non-opioid pain pills: aspirin, Tylenol (acetamenaphen), or Darvon (dextropropoxyphene) and NSAIDs – should be tried first in hope of avoiding opioids.
  2. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxyn) and Celebrex (celecoxib) are more expensive, may work better, but have certain risks you should know about.
  3. Muscle Relaxants: Valium (diazepam) or Robaxin (methocarbamol) – may help by reducing muscle spasm and producing a tranquilizing effect.
  4. Oral Steroids: prednisone or methylprednisolone (in a Medrol Dosepak can relieve pain by reducing swelling and inflammation, but amounts are limited by side-effects of fluid retention, moon face, muscle wasting and occasionally hip fracture.  The Dosepak helps avoid these side effects by having the full prescription in one packet, with a large initial dose followed by a gradually decreasing dose that ends in one week.
  5. Antidepressants: chronic back pain can cause depression; but with an acute or sub-acute herniated lumbar disc aren’t usually needed.
  6. Marijuana – Medical Marijuana For Chronic Pain:  It could alleviate emotional distress and provide some pain relief – about the equivalent of codeine.  Studies in chronic pain patients have shown relief when other treatment options failed. It’s probably safer than long-term opioid therapy.  Prevalence of addiction in patients using cannabis for pain relief is low. Before use, evaluate the health risks associated with smoking, the     risk of inadvertent over-exposure and the side effects listed below, some of which chronic pain patients already suffer.  Risks and side-effects are; the variation in oral preparations (can be from 13–19%) and it can take up to 3 hours to reach peak concentrations, sedation, dizziness, dry mouth, dysphoria (an unhappy mood), appetite stimulation and short-term memory loss.
  7. Opioids/Narcotics:  Addictive pain relievers, usually opium-based, cause drowsiness (narcosis) but are very helpful in relieving acute, severe pain.  Their short-term use is often needed and justified if it blocks the severe pain of an acute herniated disc for several days, allowing a person to then recover with time and avoid surgery.