A common question spine doctors will hear is “do herniated discs heal on their own”? Your spinal column is made up of vertebrae (bones) stacked onto each other. The vertebrae are cushioned by discs, which help absorb the shocks from daily activities like walking, lifting and twisting your body.
Each disc is made of two parts, a soft gelatinous inner portion, called the nucleus pulposus, and a tough exterior, known as the annulus fibrosus. When an injury or weakness of the spine causes the inner portion of the disc to protrude through the exterior, it is known as a herniated disc.
What Causes Herniated Disc Pain?
The protrusion causes pain and discomfort by pressing on the spinal cord or nerves. If the disc begins to compress on the spinal nerves, you may begin to experience further symptoms, such as pain along the nerve roots, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and more.
Do Herniated Discs Heal?
The answer to “can herniated discs heal on their own” is it depends. While symptoms may subside over time without medical treatment, it does not mean the herniated disc has healed on its own.
The reason that herniated disc symptoms subside includes an immune response by the body. Your body may recognize the herniated disc and the immune system may attack it, which would reduce the size of the herniation. The herniated portion of the disc also contains water. When the water is absorbed by the body, it could also cause the herniated portion of the disc to shrink and thus diminish your pain.
However, it is important to recognize that these situations only cause the herniation to become smaller, meaning the disc is still herniated and could cause recurrent pain.
Managing Herniated Disc Pain
If you have a herniated disc, managing your pain will often begin with conservative treatment, including:
- Over-the-counter pain medication
- Physical therapy
- Hold/cold therapy
- Exercising and stretching
- Massage therapy
Those suffering from a herniated disc may also find the support of a back brace or back support will also help alleviate some of the pain.
When conservative herniated disc treatment is not working, surgery might be necessary.
The Bonati Spine Institute offers an array of procedures for treating herniated discs, which may include:
Discectomy: the surgical removal of part of the herniated disc.
Foraminotomy: decompression surgery which involves creating more space for the nerve roots impinged by the herniated disc. The procedure involves removing bone or tissue that is causing nerve root compression.
Laminectomy / Laminotomy: decompression of the spinal cord or nerve roots by broadening the spinal canal. By removing or cutting away part of the lamina, or roof of the vertebrae, the compressed nerves have more room.
At The Bonati Spine Institute, our doctors are experienced in performing surgeries that can help patients suffering from a herniated disc. If you believe you may be a candidate for herniated disc surgery, contact us for a consultation and for a review of your MRI.
Contact Bonati to fill out a form for or call 855-267-0482.