Herniated Disc- Does it ever fully heal?
I am a 24 year old male who herniated a disc in my lower back (L4-L5 region) about 14 months ago playing roller hockey. When it first happened I couldn't walk without a limp. The pain shot straight through my left glut and down my left leg.
A few months later, it healed to the point where I could walk without a limp and could participate in practically any physical activity without any pain. I resumed my recreational soccer, tennis, basketball, swimming, running, elliptical, you name it. Until this day I can and do play all of these sports on a regular basis. However, all is not well with my disc.
When my disc "healed" it never healed 100%. It kept getting better and better until it plateaued at around 90%. Here are the movements that trigger intense pain down my leg:
-Bending over to touch my toes while keeping my legs straight
-While sitting, touching my chin to my neck
These movements are especially noticeable right when I wake up in the morning. It has been almost a year and this hasn't gone away. I am thankful that it has not hindered my ability to perform any physical challenge but a few questions linger in the back of my mind:
1. Will this ever heal 100%? Like I said, I'm very thankful that I'm not incapacitated in any way but I would like to know if there is anything that can be done to get it back to 100% or if I should just live with the 90%.
2. Could this potentially get worse if I keep playing the sports I play? I am a very active recreational athlete and, luckily, I am able to play all of them without any ensuing pain. Will I pay for this in the long run? Essentially, what is the worst that could happen?
3. Do I need surgery to fully correct this? Doctors have advised against this option, saying that I am young and it should heal on its own. Surgery often entails complications of scar tissue which could be disastrous in an area that sensitive. I would rather not go under the knife but may consider it if it means a return to normality.
4. Should I see a chiropractor? I have heard good and bad things about chiropractors. For one, their field of study is essentially a cult practice of medicine and doctors do not recommend it. However, I know specific patients who swear by them. Could a chiropractor even do anything in my case?
Back problems at this young of an age are scary but I have been lucky thus far. I know that it could have been a lot worse but I also know that pro athletes have recovered and returned to action from similar ailments. I would like to know how they did that and if that type of rehabilitation is available for me.
Thanks in advance for any and all answers.