Disc Herniations or Slipped Discs Get Better Without Surgery
Most disc herniations or slip discs get better without surgery. In fact, many herniated discs do not even cause pain. I know, not what you are told by others. But, it is the truth.
Many research studies show herniated discs are found in many people who have no pain associated with the finding.
But, if you do have herniated or slipped disc pain, know that most disc related pains improve and go away.
If we review how herniated discs happen, the most simple way is to use the jelly donut model.
The center of the human disc, which is the nucleus pulposus, ruptures through the annulus fibrosus, which is the woven structure containing the nucleus. The nucleus, which has chemicals as well as a mass, irritates the surrounding tissues, including the nerves. It is like the jelly coming out of the side hole of the donut.
To be a bit more specific, the outside structure, the annulus fibrosus, is made of crosslinked woven fibers, that criss cross and and are tied to each other, thus holding in the center “jelly” or nucleus pulposus.
The crosslinks of the fibers may break, allowing a separation of the fibers, and the nucleus can push through that break. Once that weak spot allowing an opening, the fibers themselves can also break, causing a blow out of the nucleus. The nucleus material causes an inflammation of the tissues and nerves, and the mechanical pressure of the jelly like substance also compresses the nerves and tissues. That causes the pain signals, numbness, and weakness. Ouch!!
So, how does the body fight off the pain associated with the disc herniation?
The human body removes any foreign objects by activating special cells called macrophages and monocytes that attack and destroy foreign material. To use another analogy, these cells are like small Pac-Men, that chomp away at that stuff.
To the body, a herniated disk, which is the nucleus pulposus in the wrong location , is considered a foreign object. The macrophages and monocytes pacman away the nucleus. In addition, the largest disc herniations tend to have the most water content. With time, the disc piece will dehydrate. Over time, the disc herniation is removed, and shrinks back so it does not irritate the nerves or the tissues. The body also heals back the tear in the annulus, and re-ties the annular fibers. That healed annulus is now associated with a scar, and though it helps hold the nucleus back into its position, it is a weaker area, and has small but increased change of rerupture. The disc will continue with the natural dehydration process and will bulge over time. That is why if you get serial MRI studies of large disc herniations, you will see spontaneous regress of the herniation, and longer term, the findings of a disc bulge.
The most important thing you need to know is that the body does have it’s own way to remove disc herniations. If you are patient enough, and do not have major nerve issues that require surgery, most of the time, the body does remove the disc herniation on it’s own. This is the reason why many people will have disc herniations or bulges on MRI without any pain.
If you are in severe pain, please discuss your condition with a doctor to make sure you do not have a situation that requires urgent, or emergent care. Fortunately, these situations rarely occur. On the other hand, if you have true loss of muscle strength, loss of the ability to control your bowels or bladder, you may need care right now.
If your doctor determines that is not the case, if you can tolerate the current pain, allow your body to start the process of removing the disc herniation. Let your body Pac-man that disc.
If you are in pain, but do not have any significant loss of body functions, you can wait to see if your body will remove or improve the disc herniation. That is why greater than 90% of people with disc herniations do get better after 6-8 weeks. NO SURGERY needed.
Take HOME MESSAGE:
If you can tolerate the pain and be patient, you can avoid disc surgery.
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Last modified: October 17, 2019