A herniated disc happens when the soft inner portion (nucleus pulposus) of your vertebral disc pushes through the hard exterior shell of the disc (the annulus). While it’s possible that some herniated discs don’t cause pain, many of them do when the inner gel-like nucleus presses on nearby nerves. Herniated discs can occur as part of the aging process and gradual degeneration, but they can also occur suddenly as the result of a single injury or straining movement.
Herniated discs go by many names: slipped disc, bulging disc, and ruptured disc. Regardless of what you cause it, the condition is notorious for causing back pain. Depending on which disc is ruptured and which nerves are compromised, herniated discs can also cause sciatica, numbness, tingling, and pain that increases with movement.
All of these symptoms can leave you with one question: will a herniated disc heal on its own? While our neurology specialists encourage you to seek medical attention if your pain persists for more than a few days, you might be happy to know that many herniated discs can heal without surgery.
Here’s what you need to know.
Can herniated discs heal without surgery?
Yes, herniated discs can heal without surgery. In fact, 90% of people with a herniated disc find that it resolves with conservative care. This includes rest, over-the-counter pain relief medication, heat therapy, cold therapy, and physical therapy.
You may also need to modify your activity and avoid any activities that jar your spine and prolong your recovery. This includes martial arts, jogging, heavy weight lifting, and any other activity that exacerbates your pain.
If your back pain persists after a few days, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. While minor muscle strains can heal at home, it’s important to know what’s causing your pain. An accurate diagnosis can ensure you’re using the right at-home treatments to support your recovery. Herniated discs are often diagnosed with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI is a diagnostic imaging test that shows images of your spine using a combination of magnets and computer technology. These 3D images provide important information about your spinal cord and nerve roots.
Even if your herniated disc didn’t fully respond to at-home treatments, our team offers nonsurgical treatments for herniated discs at our Oxnard and Santa Barbara, California, offices. This includes interventional pain management procedures and injections, such as epidural corticosteroid injections.
What happens if a herniated disc isn’t healing on its own?
In some cases, herniated discs don’t heal on their own, and if you continue to engage in activities that aggravate your discs 一 such as using improper lifting techniques 一 your herniation could get worse.
You might require surgery if your symptoms persist (or worsen) despite trying conservative treatment options. Additionally, you might need surgery if your disc herniation compromises specific nerves that contribute to urinary and fecal incontinence.
Our team of skilled neurology specialists at Link Neuroscience Institute uses different surgical techniques to relieve pressure on your spinal cord and nerves. Depending on your specific needs, the location of your herniated, and the severity of it, we may recommend any of the following surgical procedures:
- Discectomy to remove the damaged portions of your herniated disk, which is often performed at the same time as a laminotomy
- Laminectomy to remove all of your affected vertebral arch
- Artificial disc replacement
- Spinal fusion, which is often performed after a discectomy
If you’ve tried at-home remedies for a herniated disc, but still can’t find relief, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Schedule an appointment via our online booking tool and say goodbye to disc pain.