One of the first methods of conservative treatment for symptoms caused by a bulging disc is medication. Bulging disc medication can be over-the-counter or prescription, but should always be recommended by a doctor. Some medications, even over-the-counter medication, can have adverse interactions with other medications you are taking. Additionally, a doctor can make sure the medicine is safe for your use based on your medical history. Some patients with a history of high blood pressure or liver conditions may not be recommended for certain types of pain medication.

After consulting with your doctor, your physician may recommend one or more of the following pain medications to help reduce the symptoms of a bulging disc.

Over-the-counter bulging disc medication

Over-the-counter bulging disc medication is often the first step in conservative treatment for pain and symptoms caused by a bulging disc.

The most common group of bulging disc medication that can be purchased without a prescription is called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This group of NSAIDs works to reduce the inflammation in the body, which may help relieve the pressure from the bulging disc on the pinched nerve that is triggering your symptoms.

The other group of over-the-counter pain medication is called acetaminophen. This group of drugs is not as effective in relieving bulging disc pain because this type of medication does not have the same anti-inflammatory properties found in NSAIDs.

Narcotic bulging disc medication

If over-the-counter medication is not reducing the pain of a bulging disc, your doctor may recommend a narcotic drug for pain relief. Because narcotics are sometimes habit-forming drugs, you should only take the dosage recommended by your doctor. If you notice a change in your medication habits, such as addiction or sudden irritability, inform your doctor and consider asking for a different type of medication.

The most commonly used narcotics for bulging disc pain include:

  • Butorphanol tartrate
  • Fentanyl transdermal
  • Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
  • Meperidine Hydrochloride
  • Methadone Hydrochloride
  • Morphine
  • Nalbuphine
  • Oxycodone Hydrochloride
  • Oxycodone/Acetaminophen
  • Oxycodone/Asprin
  • Pentazocine
  • Tramadol Hydrochloride

Unlike NSAIDs, narcotics do not reduce the inflammation in the body. However, they help relieve pain by blocking the pain receptors between the pinched nerve and the brain. If the nerve is unable to send signals of pain to the brain, the body will not recognize that the bulging disc is causing pain. This may help reduce your symptoms of a bulging disc while the disc begins to heal.

Anticonvulsant and antidepressant bulging disc medication

Medication used to treat seizures and depression may not seem relevant to treating bulging disc pain, but these medications have shown to have a pain-dulling impact on the central nervous system. An additional benefit to taking antidepressants for bulging disc pain is that it can help combat any depression that may arise from chronic back pain.

The two common types of antidepressants prescribed for bulging disc medication are as follows:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants — This type of medication helps to slow or dull the central nervous system, which can reduce pain caused by a pinched nerve near the spine.
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) — This new generation of antidepressants may be able to help dull nerve pain with fewer side effects than tricyclic antidepressants.

Muscle relaxers bulging disc medication

Muscle relaxers are also a commonly prescribed bulging disc medication to help reduce the pain and symptoms of this condition. Similar to antidepressants and anticonvulsants, muscle relaxers target the central nervous system and help to reduce reactions to pain signals. They can also reduce muscle tension, which could be adding to the pressure on the pinched nerve near the spine.

Some of the commonly used muscle relaxers for bulging disc medication include:

  • Soma (carisoprodol)
  • Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Skelaxin (metaxalone)
  • Robaxin (methocarbamol)

Cortisone injections for bulging disc medication

Some doctors may recommend cortisone injections to relieve the chronic symptoms of a bulging disc, especially one located in the lumbar spine (lower back). These injections are meant to reduce pain and inflammation in the specific area of the bulging disc, and the results usually last between 48 hours and three months, depending on your body’s reaction to the medication.

You can receive these shots at the doctor’s office, typically given at regular intervals depending on how well the treatment works to reduce your pain.

Next steps 

If you have been recommended a series of bulging disc medications and you are still suffering from chronic neck or back pain, you should schedule another appointment with your doctor. There are several nonsurgical and surgical treatments available to help treat the pain of a bulging disc; your doctor can recommend other treatment options to help you find relief.