February 26, 2020/Brain & Nervous System

Why Does My Herniated Disk Pain Come & Go?

The short answer from a spine specialist

Woman suffering from back pain while gardening

A: Sometimes the pain from my herniated disk is very severe, while other times it’s not. Why does the pain vary?

Herniated disk pain can sometimes be intermittent. People can have minor pain that’s always there or stronger pain that comes and goes depending on the activity they’re doing.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Varying pain typically has to do with movement and the position of the body.

Usually we find that in certain situations – like when people walk upstairs or if they bend down to pick something up – that the movement stretches the body and the nerve that’s causing the pain.

Often times the pain doesn’t wax and wane too much until the disk starts to get better. So the silver lining with varying pain could mean that you’re on the pathway to healing.


The bottom line? Be mindful of your movement as your herniated disk is healing. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about when you notice your pain getting worse and try to pinpoint the activities that might be causing it.

Spine surgeon, Dominic Pelle, MD.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

man with back pain looking out window
February 13, 2020/Brain & Nervous System
Why Does a Herniated Disk Happen & Will It Go Away?

Although painful, herniated disks are extremely common

Person eating salad with oversized clock behind them
April 10, 2024/Brain & Nervous System
Eating Too Fast? Here Are 4 Ways To Slow Down

Eating mindfully, sipping water and chewing slowly can help your brain catch up with your stomach

Hand trying to write on paper, with hand shaking, tremoring
March 12, 2024/Brain & Nervous System
Seizure Warning Signs and Symptoms May Not Be What You Expect

Seizure symptoms can go far beyond convulsions and may include feelings of déjà vu, temporary confusion and unusual movements

Person experiencing COVID headache, with calendar months floating in background
March 11, 2024/Brain & Nervous System
What To Know About COVID Headaches

They can feel like a typical headache or a migraine headache, but the pain can last for weeks to months

Patient at doctor office with physician checking their back
March 11, 2024/Brain & Nervous System
Is It Time To See a Doctor for My Aching Back?

It’s always a good idea to let a healthcare provider know about any back pain you’re experiencing, especially if it results from trauma or persists longer than three months

Close up of person pouring a cup of coffee
February 23, 2024/Brain & Nervous System
Does Caffeine Help Headaches?

It’s all about the amount — try to stick to 100 to 150 milligrams a day to reduce and prevent a pounding, throbbing head

blurred person looking out window in background with glass of wine and bottle in foreground
February 21, 2024/Brain & Nervous System
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Brain?

Even one drink can have an impact on your cognitive function leading to slurred speech, blurred vision and impaired memory

female on couch reading a nasal spray bottle label
February 20, 2024/Brain & Nervous System
What To Know About Nasal Spray for Migraines

Among the options is a fast-acting medication that offers relief in as little as 15 minutes

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey