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Can a herniated disc heal itself?

By April 9th, 2023No Comments

Today we’re gonna talk about how a disc herniation can heal itself.

Many people have come to me over the years with herniated disc or what they call a ruptured disc, and they often ask, can the disc heal itself? Or must they have surgery?

If we think about a donut, think about the inside of the donut as the gel part, and that’s the inside of the disc we call the nucleus props. The outside of the donut is something like attire that has a lot of fibers around it and it contains the disc. But when the disc ruptured or herniates, it comes on the outside.

Much like the gel of a donut coming on the outside, or you may think of it, it’s like a tube of toothpaste. The gel is the inside of the toothpaste. And when it comes on the outside on the toothbrush, which is like the nerve, that’s when you get numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness. So as long as that gel is on the inside of the toothbrush or on the inside of the, of the toothpaste or on the inside of the donut, you don’t have any pain.

That’s what you want to think about when we think about a herniated or ruptured disc. And so today we’re gonna talk about how can it heal itself. Here’s a picture of someone that I have treated years ago, and you can see again the bone, the disc, the bone, the disc, and here you see the darkened disc here and this big blob or mask, that’s where the disc has herniated or ruptured and come into the spinal canal.

When it comes in that canal, it touches the nerve. And when it touches the nerve, that’s when we get pain, numbness, tingling, and possibly weakness. And so what I want to tell you is that a disc herniation can heal on its own. In fact, about 90% of disc herniations heal on its own. So then you say, well, why do people have surgery? Some people can’t wait because they have pain and they don’t want to wait until they go and they have surgery.

When a disc does heal on its own, what happens? The body’s natural mechanisms take care of itself. We have cells in the body called macrophages and monocytes that kinda eat away at this glob, and then that glob disappears much like you see here. This is the dis here, and after six or seven months it has disappeared and you don’t see it anymore. And that’s what’s actually happening to you.

Did you know that the bigger the disc, the more likely it is not to have to have surgery? Because when a disc is big, that means that it has more water in it and that it can shrink. You know how you’ve had a a sponge on your kitchen counter or on your sink? When it’s filled with water, it is swollen. But if you put that sponge on the sink and let it stay there for a few days, what happens? It shrinks. And that’s what happens to the disc. Over time, it just shrinks because it dehydrates and then it goes back into the nucleus props. And then that endless fibrosis that outside is like a tire. It also can heal, but that part gets weak. And so because it’s weak, this is why we recommend usually that a patient has therapy so that we can kinda strengthen their back muscles to protect this.

I hope that you understand that yes, yes, the body has natural processes, macrophages and monocytes that allow the disc to heal itself and that you don’t have to have surgery. And so don’t be rushing to surgery simply because you hear the words “I have a herniated disc.”

There are well documented studies that show that many people have a herniated disc and they don’t even have pain. They didn’t know it, that it could be an incidental finding that you learn that you have a herniated disc and it doesn’t correlate at all with any symptoms or any pain. And so you can have a herniated disc or a ruptured disc, and it doesn’t even cause symptoms. So we never really treat the MRI or the imaging studies.

We want to treat you, and that’s why you want to know if the herniated disc correlates to what you are having and does it make sense that this is causing your pain. I hope that you found this video helpful and that you now understand that a disc can heal itself.