A massage can make herniated disc pain worse, however, it can also make it feel better. 

It’s important to let your massage therapist know what you are feeling so that they can tailor your experience and the amount of pressure they use, to your tolerance. 

Massage therapy is not going to put the disc back into place or anything like that but it can help to reduce symptoms in the short term and allow you to feel better for a few hours at a time. 

This is valuable, especially in the initial stages of a herniation which can be incredibly painful

Will it Make it Worse?

Yes, it’s possible to make it worse, but as discussed above, this would only happen if the therapist is pressing too deeply, or, if your body is just more sensitive to pressure. 

If you enjoy massages and have found relief from them in the past then this is likely a good short-term symptom modification strategy to use. 

Are Massages Good For Herniated Discs?

Massages will not create a larger herniation or help to reduce the herniation. The only thing that can improve the size of a herniation is time or surgery. 

In most cases, a lumbar or cervical disc hernation will be able to resorb on it’s own.

Even if the disc does not resorb there is a high chance that the symptoms will improve and resolve completely regardless of what the dics looks like. 

There are scenarios where a surgical procedure is necessary. This is usually a laminectomy surgery where they remove a piece of the bone to allow for more space for the herniation.

Sometimes the surgeon will also remove a portion of the disc, too.

Can Massage Hurt a Bulging Disc?

A disc bulge is just a smaller version of a herniation. With a disc bulge, the disc material has not ruptured through the thick fibrous tissue of the outer layer of the disc. 

With that being said, a massage won’t disrupt a bulging disc in terms of making the bulge larger or smaller.  

Disc bulges are exceedingly common in the general population who do not have back pain. Please keep that in mind when reading all of this. 

Can Massage make back pain worse (other types)?

As discussed above, massage can make back pain worse. But, it can also make it better.

Whether you have sciatica, DDD, non-specific lower back pain, cervical spine pain, spondylolisthesis, disc hernations, SIJ dysfunction, or any other type of back pain, massage may be a positive thing for you to try. 

The main thing to keep in mind is that this is a short term solution to help modify symptoms while you’re giving your body time to recuperate. 

Time is the ultimately healer in these cases. 

Does a Herniated Disc Hurt When Pressed?

Similar to a bulging disc, a herniated disc can hurt when pressed however it can also feel relieving. 

This is completely person-to-person dependent and interventions like massage, exercise, or something else should always take into consideration symptoms versus only looking at the imaging. 

Read this article if you’re wondering what exercises are best for a herniated disc.

Is acupuncture good for a herniated disc?

Acupuncture for some people can have a beneficial effect in terms of symptom reduction. 

Acupuncture is not going to help a disc resorb faster, however it may help with relieving some of the pain temporarily. 

If you look at the research, acupuncture has about a 50/50 chance of helping with symptoms and the risks are relatively low. 

I wouldn’t consider this a first line of defense, however it can be incorporated into a comprehensive wellness and rehabilitation program. 

Is stretching good for a herniated disc?

Yes and no. Some stretching can be helpful for herniated disc pain while some can be more pain inducing. 

Like with anything that you try, you should test out many different movements like i’ve included in this article detailing 14 different movements you can try. 

It’s important to test and retest  to make sure that you are making progress and not worsening symptoms. 

If you find that your symptoms continually worsen with stretching, please consult a professional, and/or modify your stretching routine. 

Can a chiropractor make a herniated disc worse?

Yes, a chiropractor can make the pain related to a herniated disc worse, but they can also make it better. 

Chiropractors, physical therapists, DOs, massage therapists, acupuncturists and many others in the healing professions like to believe that they have the monopoly on helping people heal from this type of injury. 

The reality is that everyone responds differently to different stimuli. 

The only constant between each of these is that sufficient time must go by in order for symptoms to reduce and heal. 

So, with your chiropractor, just make sure that you guys are testing and retesting to make sure that things are getting better or staying the same, versus getting worse. 

If things are getting worse it’s time to change the approach. 

Is Ice or heat better than massage for a herniated disc?

Ice or heat isn’t necessarily better than massage for a herniated disc, but rather they can be additive. Usually massage therapists will use some form of heat therapy through a heating pad or warmed blankets. 

But it’s impossible to say that ice or heat is better than massage as they are usually used in conjunction with one another and in addition to that, everyone responds differently to stimuli.

Is a physical therapist or chiropractor better for healing a herniated disc?

Both can help you reach your goal of reducing symptoms and helping you be more active.  

In general physical therapists tend to be more exercise based while chiropractors tend to use  more manual therapy.


If your preference is to move more, I’d go to PT. 

If your preference is to get worked on, I’d go to a chiropractor. 

Now, this is a simplification, of course, there are chiro’s and PTs that do both of these. 

In any case, you’ll just need to choose who you want to work with based on what your preferences are.