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Has anyone ever had a bulge/herniation heal naturally?

jsirabellajjsirabella Posts: 311
Just wondering and how long did it take and were you ever pain free and had the same mobility?



  • :H

    I was diagnosed with a bulge at L4/L5 in the fall of last year. Severe left leg sciatica -- 3 epidurals -- finally started to resolve in June of this year. I'm still on Lyrica and tramadol. So I'd say that it resolved on it's own.

  • I don't know, but was told by my Dr. that my bulging discs will heal given time. I also have a "probable annular tear" and am wondering if that will heal itself, "given time".
  • My husband ruptured a lower lumbar disc about 17 years ago the morning of Christmas Eve. He went to several spinal specialists who all advised to hold off on surgery -- that he could heal and that five years out, he would feel the same whether he'd had surgery, or not.

    He went to PT, but had no other treatments, meds or injections. At first when he returned to work, I went along to carry his briefcase. He stood for part of the day and created a stand-up desk. Sometimes people would walk in and find him lying on the floor returning phone calls.

    It was slow, but he healed. It was rough the first month, and then gradually got better. By summer he was pretty much back to normal. He did give up a few things that he just knew were difficult for his back -- playing hockey and even skating. But he was able to resume running, which was his favorite thing.

    He is very disciplined and still does those back exercises he learned in PT EVERY DAY. I joke that we could have a tornado approaching but if it was first thing in the morning, he wouldn't leave the house until he'd spent his half-hour on the floor doing his back exercises! He keeps his weight normal and paces himself. If he does something that he knows is hard of the back (yard work, shoveling snow, etc.) he paces himself, then comes in and lies on the floor to give those discs a chance to unload and for the supporting soft tissue to relax and return to "normal."

    It can be done, but it does take a great deal of patience and perseverance. I think most people give up and opt for surgery because it seems like a quicker fix and they cannot deal with the pain and time involved to heal naturally.

    You might want to get another opinion...always a good idea.

  • Always need some positive stories to keep believing...

    It is hard to believe but I guess I am in the beginning of this ordeal if I want to go through the haul without surgery. While it started in March the pain did not start till July-August. I would like to get through this without the surgery so I will see if I can hold out.

    I can not believe he got through it without any meds or shots...that was probably a rough 6 mos. How many hours a day was he standing? Maybe A good idea for me as I have a foot stool to clear the area under my legs as they have been giving me issues. I can feel them flairing up at times.

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,848
    I agree, given the right situation, the right person, who is disciplined, there are ways that the disc problem can heal over time.
    There are many people who for whatever reason do not want to have any spinal surgery. The look for the conservative route but do everything they can do to hep the process along.
    Your body and your brain are funny things.

    Your body could be telling that I have pain and then your brain responds.
    But after a while, your brain is telling you that you have had enough of this.
    So what is it?

    -Does the disc heal over time? YES

    -Will some of that pain disappear? Yes, Hopefully


    -Has your brained now convinced itself that it can deal with the disc and pain, so that they can move on.

    Bottom line, do whatever you can do and what has been approved by your doctor in trying to resolve your disc problems without surgical intervention
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Gwennie - your husband was VERY wise to do and remain doing all he does :)

    JS - If *note the IF I had done as Gwennie husband did I too would have healed on my own. However I denied how injured I really was and kept doing EVERYTHING wrong. Today about 6 yrs later I am not able to do most things and what I can do is not in the "old normal" way of doing them. IE. dressing, walking, standing etc..

    IF I had it to do all over again, I would be THRILLED to take a time out for 6 months, a year what ever it took to heal naturally.

    So in answer to your question - I would say "yes" :)
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • Both ron and mshumptydumpty you folks have some amazing stories in that you continue to be optimistic and you make me feel a bit shameful that I worry so much about my small ailment in comparison.

    You have all given me the courage to continue and stay active. I will continue my daily PT and only if I can not walk will I consider surgery. There are no easy roads here.

    I will try and do some standing today also. See how the legs react. Start with intervals of 10 minutes every 90 minutes.

    May I ask though what do you consider EVERYTHING WRONG. If you do not answer I understand.

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,848
    I have two threads out in the Maintenance Category:

    On the Positive Side
    10 Ways to make sure we dont have another surgery

    On the Negative Side
    10 Ways to do things that might put us up for another Surgery
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Remember, there are a couple reasons why you would need to have surgery. If a nerve is badly compressed and the pain does not get any better, you would probably need to have surgery. My husband took pain pills for the first couple days -- between Christmas and New Year's because he couldn't get in to see a specialist. But he didn't like the way they made him feel, so he quickly gave them up.

    He worked shorter days at the beginning, and would sit a bit, stand or lie on the floor. I think he closed the door to his office when he was flat on the floor....He would stand to take meetings, and he'd comment on how uncomfortable it made people.

    If he hadn't had a surgeon who told him he was not a candidate for surgery at that point he might not have toughed it out -- but back then there was a new study out showing that whether people had a discectomy or not, five years later they reported being the same, having the same pain level, etc.

    Anyway, the second reason for having surgery would be if you were to develop problems with bladder or bowel function. This would mean an immediate call to your doctor, or a trip to the ER to have it checked out if your doc is unavailable. This is considered a medical emergency. And, the third reason for surgery would be if you lost reflexes in your ankle/foot and developed foot drop. Then you'd want to discuss it with your doctor, but would probably need to have surgery. Otherwise, you can wait and see what happens.

    Just remember: no bending, twisting, reaching up overhead or to the side, pushing or pulling and be careful about how much weight you lift.

    You should try to lie on the floor often. Just lie flat on your back, feet flat on floor (knees bent), hand close to the body, palms facing up. Try to keep your pelvis in a NEUTRAL position. This position is a form of traction -- helps the discs to unload and allows the soft tissue to relax and realign itself.

    An alternate position is to lie flat on the floor perpendicular to a couch or chair. Lie close enough so your hips are resting along the bottom of the couch. Rest calves and feet on the seat, bending at the knees. (you body will be in the form of a stair step) Again, arms close to sides, palms facing toward the ceiling...breathe slowly and deeply from the belly and RELAX. Stay there for about five minutes.

    If you are having an attack of pain, try to do one of these positions for five minutes each hour or as often as possible...several times each day. It really helps to relax the muscles which may be tensing as they try to "guard" the injured area, lets the discs unload from the pressure of gravity, and is just generally really good for the spine.

    Good luck! Remember to drink lots of water.

  • My MRI was in Feb. 2008 and showed L5-S1 herniated disc and annular tear and stopped working and still off unable to work. I recently had another MRI in September and it showed no herniations but have Degenerative Disc Disease in my L-spine from L1-S1 and I still have pain although the leg pain is not as bad as it was. Good luck and I hope you do get better. I'm starting pool therapy since I'm not able to walk too far. 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
  • I am trying everything I can now to avoid surgery including remaining positive and not let a bout with pain get me down or finding out something bad. Recently I believe I can not stay in a seated position either in a car or at work too long without having some bad issues. So instead of getting down I am dealing with it and starting to get up more and stand more and walk more. Today in the gym I have did 30 minutes of walking without any real bad side effects.

    Will I got a little reminder I (herniation) am still here...sure but I believe I need to stay active as from all I read the key is to keep getting blood in there and that can only happen by being active which than made sense why docs only operate when you can no longer walk. I am glad that I have not loss any work yet except one day off.

    I will try the lying position exercises as I am starting to find that I may be doing too many exercises that involve prone positions and really getting sore. I am so sore that I really can not do even very light strength training as my back is just shot.

    It will be a long haul and I must accept that life will never be the same and have to adjust and make the best of it.

    I see many people have DDD in their descriptions. How does this usually occur? Is it genetics or can occur over time from the herniation and is it caught in an MRI or not?


  • I can't sit without my infrared heating pad on my back. DDD is seen in the MRI as it was on mine and both my parents have mild DDD but my 74 yr old Father still plays golf 3x a week and can out walk many of the 40 years old guys he plays with up the small hills. They even have a lift at one golf course that goes straight up the Don Valley golf course and the younger guys are on this and my Father walks faster than the lift up the hill! I wonder if the epidurals had something to do with the DDD as I had no DDD in my first MRI just the herniated disc and tear and facet joint arthropy. My second PM Dr. gave me Depomedrol 3 injections all within an 8 month period of getting 2 Kenalog steroid injections from my 1st PM Dr. I think those could be contributing factors as well as the herniation. But just IMO as I'm not a Dr. 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
  • Sometimes it is hard to find a balance between doing enough to be effective but not doing too much. "Too much" usually leads to inflammation and keeping the spine in a continual state of unhappiness!

    To learn more about DDD you might want to read through this:


    DDD occurs simply from the fact that sooner or later, we all age. ;)
  • Thank you for your post....There seems to be many treatment options for this debilitating leg pain...but I am going to try to get through it without surgery also...Starting Aquatic Therapy tomorrow....I did have 2 Epidural Injections which took away so much of my pain, if even for now....but I am doing so much better, except have very numb toes and calf, but I can deal with that and a lot of pressure in my "Saddle Area"....I guess that is from the compressed L4-L5 nerve also....Hanging int here with you...and Thanks
  • It is really hard to find that amount of PT that is not too much. I have to keep experimenting till I find what works and than add and exchange from that. I just feel right now I may be doing too many prone exercises as they are taking up close to 60 minutes of the 90 minutes I am usually in the gym. I do most of the exercises for herniated disc laid out on this site and what the doc has prescribed. They are moving the pain up but I still get some nasty pains once in a while and still have not had a pain free day for months.

    I feel things are getting better but recently I feel I need the diclofenic to keep the pain at bay but the amount I can do is up and energy is good. The doc believes using the diclofenic is not a bad thing to remain more active but I am unsure.

  • I herniated a disc at L5 S1. The pain was a nightmare; at the lowest point, I couldn't walk for more than 48 seconds without having to lie down from the pain. I couldn't sit at the dinner table or anywhere, I couldn't drive. It was awful, and there were times I feared I'd never get better. I seriously considered surgery and went for a consult with the surgeon (who was great). The next day, I decided to schedule the surgery. And then the next day, I started to feel alot better! I kept the appt on the books, to wait and see, but from there, I basically improved, and was so happy to avoid the surgery.

    What worked for me was, in this order:
    1) Time and patience
    2) Aleve, usually 800-1000mg per day
    3) Physical therapy and gradually increased walking
    4) Slow breathing and meditation (to help me get through the panicky times when I thought I'd be permanently disabled)

    Now I can walk as far as I want without pain, and I've gone back to running.

    Although I consider myself back to normal, this episode changed me--I think for the better. It was a wakeup call, reminding me that I couldn't just continue with my lifetime of poor habits. Those habits had included too much sitting slumped in front of a computer, not enough regular stretching, and a "weekend warrior" approach to exercise, including running.
    I keep the back problems at bay now by walking and/or running regularly, doing back strengthening exercises every morning and evening without fail, and I do yoga and tai chi. In these ways, I've also learned to manage my stress levels, which I believe played an important part in my disc herniation.

    Best to you!
  • Can anyone out there define 'healing'

    'Feeling better' is not a definition.

    I mean, does the the nucleus pulposa that has been emitted in herniation get reabsorbed, digested, attacked by macrophages?
    Does scar tissue form at the tear site ?

    Does the annulus retain elasticity so that it moves back to its original lication due to elasticity ?

    Do the tears in the annulus repair ? How, cellularly ?

    I have asked three NS and none seem to have any understanding of what we mean by 'healing' of a herniated disc, especially not at the cellular/molecular biology level.

    We know how other tissue trauma heals via platelets and factors and macrophages and cytokines etc. Surely there myst be data or at least plausible conjecture for disc healing mechanisms !!!

    Help !
  • given some time. Healing meaning a resolving of the herniation. If it is a large herniation with an extrusion, it might not be able to resolve in the same manner. I was told by my doctor that it could take up to two years, but as far as the mechanics of it , or the scientific basis of it, I can not explain that, since I am not a scientist.
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