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how long does it take a disc to heal once herniated

tammycttammyc Posts: 894
edited 05/13/2014 - 4:25 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical

Does anyone have any idea how long it takes for a disc to heal after it's been herniated, assuming that it's going to? I realize that sometimes it just never goes back into place and has to be operated on, but I'm assuming that this disc is healing and will shrink back into spot.

How long should i wait before seeing my doctor? I was starting to feel a bit better over the weekend, but today I went for a walk and to therapy and now I'm back to the same awful pain all over again. I really wanted to wait til the end of the month to talk to my spine surgeon about it, but the pain is really getting to me and I think I may need to see someone before that.



  • Bummer that you are so easily able to irritate it. My experience has been that depending on the way or position that the disc herniated, determines how long it takes to heal. Generally 6 months is what I've always been told, but more difficult herniations can take a couple years.

  • From my experience with a herniated disc at C6/C7, it's been about 8 months since I first got the official diagnosis. About two months into healing I relapsed by trying to lift something way too heavy and had 3 weeks of awful pain. Since then I've been getting better, but am still not 100% - don't know if I'll ever be 100%, but it's been 6 months and while I am significantly better, I'm not all the way yet.

    Unfortunately, I've heard everything from 6 weeks to more than a year, so I guess patience is key (and I'm not good at patience!).

    Best of luck to you.
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  • yes now that you say that i kinda remember my therapist telling me a long time ago that it takes quite a while for a disc to heal itself.I guess it doesn't help having the whiplash as well,sometimes its hard to figure out what pain is from what,but i definitely know the pain i'm feeling at the moment is from the disc.I tried to get into the doctors today but everytime i called it was busy.If i don't get through tomorrow i'm just going to the walk in clinic.The pain meds. i have now aren't helping with the pain and exercising makes it even worse so i need something different.I also heard that whenever you re injure that disc your time starts all over again.You don't count from the original time that you hurt it.
  • I think that's accurate - the part about once you reinjure a disc, the clock starts over again.

    I'm not expert, but from the research I've done online, I've read that a disc can heal itself over time, but one has to be careful about developing scar tissue, which can impinge a nerve itself. Apparently oxygen is what helps heal, and the discs on their own don't get much oxygen. One chiro doc suggested bouncing up and down on an exercise ball (the big ones you see at gyms) for 5 min. a day. I do that daily, along with cervical traction with my home unit. I also take Glucosamine Chondroitin daily after reading one study that suggested it can help repair discs. I don't know if it has helped, but I have been feeling better, and the stuff isn't bad for you, so I figure it's worth the investment.

    I try to walk a lot of stairs, too (I work on the 9th floor of my building, so that helps). I think the motion is like that of bouncing on that exercise ball, so in my mind I feel like it also helps 'pump' oxygen into the disc.

    All I can say is be patient and be consistent with therapy/drugs/other treatment. I was in very severe pain for weeks, couldn't sleep in my bed for months and was just depressed, worn out, upset, etc. I basically was a different person. But I have eventually gotten better and feel as if I will continue to do so.

    Best of luck to you!
  • i called my doctors yesterday to see if i could schedule an apt. to get my back looked at,i woke up in the morning and i coudn't bend over again.I told the nurse what was wrong and she said they didn't have any opening until May5th. I couldn't believe it. I told my therapist today and he was shocked he just shook his head.So i decided to go the clinic after therapy and see what they would do for me,the doctor didn't even examine my back he just wrote me out a perscription for pain meds.I guess no one wants to look at my back.LOL.
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  • This is exactly what's wrong with the US today - doctors prescribing pain meds without a thorough exam. Not that you didn't need them, but where I live, prescription drug abuse is a HUGE problem, and these kind of doctors are fueling the fire. I wouldn't go back to see that quack if I were you.

    Keep us updated on your progress.
  • I had C4-C7 surgery December '07. The surgery helped the right arm/shoulder pain, but now I am having left shoulder/arm pain. It isn't as intense YET as the right was, but I just had another MRI and the surgeon said that there was nothing he could do surgically to help me and suggested I go to a Physiotrist or Pain Clinic. I am so frustrated as I understood the surgery would take all the nerve pain away. I am on tramadol but that only deadens the pain. There are times that when I move my arm "wrong" that the pain is so intense that I think I am going to pass out. I just lost my job and now because of the pain, I am not able to do jobs that require any lifting, etc. Anyone else having this problem almost 18 months post surgery?
  • jharing,

    I can't say i've had that problem but i was told before my fusion that he wouldn't guarantee that it would help any of my pain problem.For me that was just an added bonus that i was able to get off my pain meds after the surgery.The only reason i'm on them now is because of the whiplash from the car accident.
    when i see my doctor next month if she refuses me pain medications i'm going to ask to be sent to a pain clinic because she's made herself very clear to me that she doesn't want anything to do with perscribing me pain meds.
    The doctor at the clinic was just the opposite went right ahead and gave me the perscription but he did only give me enough until i see my own doc. next month.I'm just glad i have something that calms down the pain,i was in a lot of pain,it was all i could do not to break down infront of my therapist yesterday and even left early to go to the clinic.
  • my physio chick put me in a type of "traction" that is good if you are game enuf to try it on a yoga/pilates ball. (the big one you sit on) you have to have relatively good balance, so get "comfy" with the ball sitting first!

    sit, roll slowly down off of it and when the contour of the ball hits the middle of your back, very slowly lift one arm then the other until you are hyperextending your spine you will feel the stretch in all your discs, and it does help "reoxygenate" the discs....but you have to be consitent and persistent (and its way cheaper than paying to have professional traction with a vax-d or buying an inversion table)
  • Physio "chick"? Not to sound harsh, but the many health care professionals who work so hard to help us all overcome our issues are deserving of our respect. I'm sure you didn't mean this to sound as dismissive as it came off.
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