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Do herniated discs heal?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Just a general question. I've read some research that suggests herniated discs can heal; other studies say they don't.

Also, my NS told me that my herniation "would heal over time." Just wondering if anyone had come across research or other information about this subject.


  • from what I have read and heard it's not that they heal it's that they don't affect the nerve as bad but it could take years for that to happen.Discs harden over time which from what I understand causes the bad spot to not hit the nerve the same as it did when it was soft and jelly like .This is just my understanding of it not fact.
  • Yes, I've also heard that as a person ages and the disc gets harder, it will actually resect from the affected nerve.

    I guess I'm just a worry-wart. I've been recovering from a herniation a C6/C7 for about 8 months now, and I'm slowly getting better, but I still have an occasional twinge of nerve pain in my shoulder, or a brief twinge in my hand. And evertime I get something like that, I freak out because I'm afraid it's getting worse.

    Thanks for the reply!
  • From what i have read and been told, if they are going to heal on their own they will within 12 weeks max. True or not I don't know but that is what I have heard.

    I am seven weeks post op from having C5&6 fused with plate/screws and had been through physical therapy, pain meds and anti-inflamatories, traction, you name it and nothing helped I just progressivly got worse. good luck and hopefully things continue to get better for you.
  • you would think at 8 months it would be better...get another mri...
  • I've been heling on my owm 14 months now. www.chirogeek.com helped me. I heard it may heal in 15 months that's what I'm hoping for. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • My last herniation was at C4/5 and it was deforming my spinal cord. I wanted surgery ASAP as I've been through this many times and my herniations have never healed. My surgeon said his protocol is to wait 3 months. If there is no improvement or I am worse, we will do surgery then. He said discs have a good chance of healing within the 1st 3 months of onset. I spent 3 months in excrutiating pain that got worse daily. My right arm and hand became useless with no improvement. I had the fusion. Have you felt any improvement in this 8 month period? Or do you feel worse? That is the question you must ask yourself. Also have your Dr. do a strength test to check for any neurological weakness. Hope this helps.
    Faith M
  • JKDE302 said:
    you would think at 8 months it would be better...get another mri...
    It is better, just not 100%. I think I'm around 75 to 80% of where I was pre-injury. I just have to be more aware of what I'm doing, how I'm moving, sleeping, posture, etc. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

    I'd be happy to get a follow-up MRI, but I'm still paying for the first one, so a second one is out of the question unless I relapse into major pain again.

    And I should point out that I have NOT had surgery - just rest, some therapy and the usual list of drugs.
  • So what happens if the herniation doesn't heal on it's own? What then?
  • Well, Baffled...from what I know and have heard from my doctors and PT, if it doesn't heal, and you can live with the pain, you just deal with it and do anything conservative that can help you out (traction, stretching, etc, etc...). If it becomes a hinderance to living your life, or if it gets worse, then you have to consider surgical options.

    My father's colleague (the Dean of the local med school) herniated a disc in his neck back in college. He never had surgery and just did conservative therapy, and he was able to keep the pain at bay for the majority of his adult life. Sometimes, according to him, it "flares up," and he needs to get drugs or see a PT, but he avoided surgery. And he's in his 60s. So, there is hope for some, thankfully. I'm determined to be that way.
  • What is your quality of life? Can you live with this pain forever? I had my surgeries because I was losing the use of my limbs, quality of life a 3. I didn't want to live my life in a wheelchair if there was a possibility I didn't have to. When a herniation doesn't heal it can possibly get worse over time and can cause permenent nerve damage if not addressed. If surgery isn't an option, try everything else available. Over the years I've tried everything, traction, accupuncture,reflexology,water walking,Tai Chi, accupressure,biofeedback and much more. Never give up on yourself. Baffeled I see you've 2 very long and painful years I'm sending you a big hug >:D< Take care.
    Faith M
  • I had a right sided herniated L4-L5 and I went to a Chiropractor for a year and the last 4 months of that year I saw a Neurosurgeon who prescribed a strong anti-inflammatory and neurontin. After 4 months of taking the meds and continuing to see the Chiropractor with decompression almost every time, I was completely better. Unfortunately I was given a 50 lb weight limit and 3-1/2 years later , which was 3 months ago, I Lifted incorrectly and herniated the same disc to the left. This time I have been led on a different path. I have been taking ibuprophen 800 and neurontin for 2 months and have gone to 12 sessions of Physical Therapy and was doing better only to have my MRI, (which showed significantly decreased or resolved herniation of L4 L5 to the right--which the PT said was rare, and new herniation to the left), and have a set back. My doctor suggested I stop therapy until I saw my Neurosurgeon again. When I saw him I asked about seeing a Chiropractor again and he said he didn't have a problem with me trying that if I wanted to. I was already scheduled the next day for the Spine and Pain Center for an evaluation for epidural steroid shots which I am now scheduled to begin next Tuesday. My Neurosurgeon wants to talk about surgery in 6 weeks if the shots and his anti-inflammatory change and the increase in neurontin haven't helped. But looking at the odds of failed surgery and repeat surgery and scar tissue causing compression of the nerve eventually, I don't want to have surgery. Praying for it to resolve again and I hope all of yours do too.
  • November 14, 2011 I was in a single vehicle accident and ended up screwing up my neck, along with a few other parts of my head. The airbag deployed and broke my nose and when they did a CT of my C-Spine they said there were abnormalities at C5-6-7. I went for an MRI a few weeks later and I had 2 herniated discs enfacing the the CSF. Most days my left are is there for looks since I really can't use it. Majority of the time I have numbness in my ring and pinky fingers on my left hand and then feels like pins and needles up my forearm. I've been to physical therapy twice including traction which didn't help at all. The only part of physical therapy that wasn't torture was the ultrasound then the tens unit. My neurologist said "No surgeon will touch my neck and that I basically had to just live with the pain. Some mornings I will wake up and my left hand and arm will be locked up and it takes so force to straighten it out and then constant working to loosen it up. That usually takes at least 10 mins to do. So in almost 3 yrs mine hasn't healed itself. But hopefully you have better luck than me.
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    This is an old thread, for best support and information I suggest you make a new thread in introductions, you can do this by clicking on 'create forum post' on the left column.


    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • ThDrkPoetTThDrkPoet Posts: 3
    edited 03/24/2015 - 8:52 AM
    Hello. Newbie here. I may not be posting this in the right forum, but was hoping to get some insight as it does pertain to healing time frame. To start, about 5 - 6 weeks ago, I apparently herniated my L3-L4 disc causing insane amounts of sciatic pain (as well as a steady stream of vulgarities) I got an MRI after seeing a physiatrist and his recommendation. I proceeded to then get a lumbar steroid shot to try and help the inflammation...which wore off relatively quick. Since then, I've started PT and my therapist has me doing different exercises, which has helped. Two weeks ago, in period of 5 days, my right leg buckled twice beneath me (Ironically, one of the falls happened after my home PT exercises) and I fell and seemed to hyper-flex my knee and thigh muscles. My therapist was concerned that I was still experiencing weakness in my leg after 2 weeks of treatment (4 PT sessions with home exercises). While I feel my leg is stronger, I still cannot put substantial weight on it...I can walk, but climbing stairs is still difficult and my thigh muscle hurts the most. Is my therapist right in his concern or is my condition normal for the injury I sustained and only 2 weeks of PT? At age 42, this is my first really substantial injury and my main concern and fear is permanent damage to nerves, muscles, spine, etc.
    I will say that when this all started, I could barely walk, had numbness in my right knee and shin in addition to the sciatic pain in my hip and now I can walk on my own without a cane, the numbness has reduced to just under my kneecap. Should I be concerned after roughly 5 weeks about this?


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  • sxw1133ssxw1133 Posts: 1
    edited 07/08/2015 - 9:50 AM
    I have bulging disc involving L5 and suffered pain from the hip to the leg while walking beyond a few minutes. I eventually talked to my sister and mom. They have been sleeping on the floor ever since they had similar symptoms. I started to sleep on hard surfaces, e.g., the floor in my bedroom two days ago. The results are quite obvious. This seems to the answer that my PT does not know.

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  • I thought that my herniated L5-S1 has finally started to heal at the 7 year mark , meaning hardly any sciatica. Started a new job after being laid off for a year. It has been a long haul living with the pain but I still have to deal with lower back pain especially while sleeping at night. I put myself around 80% recovery. Now the year break helped my lower back but starting the new job means sitting a lot , much like the ps job. Now I'm starting to get signs of sciatica again.
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