Can Herniated Disc Heal On Its Own?

"Can A Herniated Disc In The Neck Heal Itself?"
by Dr. J. Alex Sielatycki

So disc herniation in the neck, basically what's happening is a piece of the disc material that's between the vertebrae has migrated out or protruded out or herniated out and is irritating a nerve. The body sees that material as a foreign substance. The normal disc does not get the blood flowing through it. And so your immune system does not identify that as part of your own body. So it causes a lot of inflammation and that's part of why the pain is there. Now, as a result of that, your body can reabsorb a herniated disk fragment and basically dissolve it.

If you think about it like a grape that's sitting on the nerve, your body can attack it with inflammatory cells and shrivel it down to the size of a raisin or even dissolve it completely. And if that happens, the symptoms will often get much better and your pain will go away.

The disc itself will not regenerate into a normal disc. So the piece that's herniated out will not migrate back in and go back into where it once was and restore itself to a normal disc. So once that damage has occurred, it's done and that's not going to be reversed. That doesn't mean the pain is always going to be there. So if you have a herniated disc and your body does heal it, so to speak. If it does reabsorb that fragment and your pain is gone, that does not mean that you're going to have long-term permanent deficits or permanent issues. It does mean that that disc, that herniated is not a normal disk anymore and it may cause more symptoms down the road. It may not. Some patients may never have another problem and others may have recurrences of that episode. And we do know that with every occurrence of a disc herniation, there is a risk of re-herniation or repeat herniation at some point down the road.

Whether you have surgery or whether it's treated conservatively, it can happen again. Your risk of it happening over and over goes up each time it happens. So if it's happened once, there's a reasonable chance it may not happen again. But if it's happened three or four times, there probably is a good chance it's going to keep happening. If your body's done something three times, you can pretty much bet that it's going to happen a fourth time in a fifth time unless it's treated.

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Dr. J. Alex Sielatycki