It seems that my herniated disk has calmed down a little bit. Although I seem to keep going through phases. For awhile everything will go a little better, and then I'll move wrong or something else, and be in serious pain again??
Can a herniated disk heal itself or does it just calm down for awhile, and eventually get so bad that it would need surgery? Has this happened to anyone else?
I've had two different experiences. I had a herniated disc in my lower back more than two years ago that caused quite a bit of pain but no other symptoms. Physical therapy helped but not much, so my Dr. then recommended a epidural steriod shot. That worked very well to calm down the pain. Since then it has stopped being a big concern for me. I still have some pain from time to time, but stretching, ibuprofen, heat, etc. seem to help. My doc said at the time surgery for the lower back is complex and can take a long time to recover from.
In Sept. of 2004, I had a herniated disc in my neck. My doc this time referred me to a Neurosurgeon. I ended up seeing two, who both recommended surgery because my symptoms included weakness and numbness. In other words, more serious problems than the first case. I ended up having surgery (not acdf but a foraminotomy) which has improved some but not all of the symptoms.
So: do herniated discs heal themselves? As I understand it, no. But the area around the herniated disc can adjust and heal up, making remedies such as surgery unneccesary. In other cases, more drastic measures may be needed. One of my neurosurgeons told me that I could certainly decline surgery and live with the symptoms. But there are risks, such as the herniation getting worse, or permanent damage to the affected nerves.
In any case, I would advise talking this over further with your NS or other doc.
Thank you both very much for the information. It really helps. I just don't know what to expect anymore ya know. Time will tell. I wish that I could help you guys out or give you helpful advice, but I'm still at the beginning. I read all the posts daily, and I am so sorry to hear that so many of you have to deal with so much pain every day! It's not fair!
Hi Sam - curious about your symptoms - did you have weakness/issues in the legs as well as arms, and if so - how strong - and how long before symptom onset and surgery - thanks Rob.
Dutchgirl - My herniated disc hasn't 'healed' but it has reduced in size since the initial trauma that caused it. Its still very much there but I'm hoping over time it might reduce considerably. I still have mild symptoms in arms, trunk and legs and am still being monitored by a surgeon.
I found one research article about four different documented cases of herniated discs dissappearing altogether (with MRI confirmation of the results). They don't 'repair' but the protruded material is absorbed by the body so the herniation goes. In one case bizzarely, the disc at one level dissappeared, but another level a very similar looking one appeared ( confirmed on MRI). Another younger male had one dissappear altogether 2 years after it occurred.
I also found one article on pubmed (J Neurosurg article so reasonably reputable) about a 48 year old woman that had spontaneous resolution of a large herniated c6/c7 disc.
But all these articles seem to imply that the total resolution of cervical discs is fairly rare at least in terms of documented instances.
I read about a procedure that might assist in allievating the pain without removing the disk itself. It's called "Cervical Endoscopic Discectomy (CED)". It's supposed to do via endoscopic that ROB_ZZZ mentioned that your own body might be able to do over time. It's interesting but this procedure sounds a bit to clinical to me. It might be good if done in a hospital environment.
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Exactly one year ago my whole life changed. I was in terrible pain caused by a bulging disk. I was in bed with pain meds for 6 weeks. I was seen by a Neuroligist and Othopedic Surgeon. I had 2 EMG's and a Cat Scan. The bulged slowly retreated but I've not been the same since. I feel like my hips are on fire most of the time...weak legs...just a general hurting from the waist down which jumps from side to side. The pain is not unbearable but it's making me very upset and limiting my lifestyle. Im 53 years old. Recently my Doctor told me that Herniated Disk's ( Sciatica ) take up to 6 months to heal...but in 10% of the population the nerve remains irritated, which is causing my pain. She has some recommendations but none of them are surgury...I will try anything..the worst thing about this is my newfound limited lifestyle which has made me cranky and frustrated.
Interesting stuff. I'm really wondering the same thing. It's been over 3 months since I herniated c6-7. Report called it "large." In the last 2-3 weeks the pain has really eased up, especially with PT. But my arm is still pretty weak.
Pain and discomfort come and go, as does numbness. I'm considering Dr. Jho and waiting to hear from Dr. Schiffer for a CED. My concern is the weakness, which is always there. My arm is about 50% in the tricep.
At the same time, with the pain mostly gone and the numbness in and out, my symptoms are fairly tolerable most of the time. It's a tough call whether to go through a surgery or not.
So what does it mean to say it "healed?" I mean, I had some pain from a similar injury a year ago. Then I hurt it again. Again, it makes it tough because surgery seems like it can tilt the balance back in your favor - at least, the CED type surgeries.
So I'm waiting to hear back from Dr. Schiffer or I might go with Dr. Jho who offered up his version of the CED just today. But I'm starting to think that minimally invasive surgery is not a bad idea for a chronic problem or to help with difficult symptoms.
It's a much harder decision when you're talking about acdf. If you're on the fence - and everyone is different - it might help to look into an endoscopic, non-fusion approach. It's kind of the middle ground between the fusion and just living with your symptoms.
I can only relate my past situation. IN Feb of 2003 I hurt my back and went to a Nuerosurgeon.He confirmed I had a herniated disc.He told me sometimes if you can avoid work that they will heal.So I took off work until May.It got better and now I have no pain or problem with that part of my back at all.But I had to actually not work.No lifting,etc.
I had a severe hierniated disk in my neck (numbness in arm - extreme pain/headaches). I was in the process of making an appointment for surgery when my pain got worse. Believe it or not - I started putting an ice pack on my neck for hours at a time (really numbed the pain). I mean I'd work from my couch with a pillow supporting the ice pack. There were only a couple of hours in the day I didn't have the ice pack applied. I continue to do my neck exercises (via books I read) - and did my over the door traction unit. In WEEKS, my pain went away completely. it's now been 1 year since my incident - and I'm pain free and numbness free (no surgery). So there is hope. By the way - I didn't apply the ice packs until 1 year after I hurt my neck!
Is your injury the result of an accident or degenerative changes? Acute injuries often heal and resporb, whereas chronic injury due to degenerative changes usually do not resporb.
If your injury is mechanical in nature and you take the pressure off the disc, drink plenty of water and eat right you have much better chances. I have read as many case studies as I could find in the past year and for some they do heal, especially if you do not have other health problems and are younger.
I have also read that their have been cases of herniated disc's healing themselves. I do believe that it is much more common that a bulging disc can completely repair itself. I have injury to my neck and DDD. I have had a couple of cervical MRI's over the past three years. At one time my disc at level C6-7 was herniated. My latest MRI about 4 months ago stated that this disc in now bulging.
Although I have just had a cervical fusion last month on level C5-6, I do expect that I will once again herniate C6-7 because of the pressure that will now be put on levels above and below my fusion. But so far I am feeling absolutely NO pain in my cervical area. I did experience a little bit of pain in left bicep last week and I got really worried. This week the pain is gone.
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
Posterolateral Fusion & Infuse (BMP) with Laminectomy & Discectomy
on L4,L5,S1 June 2003
Instrumentation = 2 Rods, 6 Screws, 2 Disc Spacers FBSS-Failed Back Surgery Syndrome
Re-Herniated Disc's, L4-5, L-5 & S1 ~CERVICAL~
Straightening of the Normal Cervical Lordosis.
Mild Congenital Narrowing of the Spinal Canal.
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
Disc Osteophyte Complex
Compression Deformity & Spinal Lithiasis
C4-5, C5-6, C6-7 Herniated & Bulging Disc's
C4-5 & C5-6 , Cord Flattening at these levels.
Fusion & Discectomy on Level C5-6 - September 2005
Instrumentation = Titanium Plate & Screws
Bilateral Chronic L4 versus L5 Radiculopathy
Bilateral Frozen Shoulder - MUA 2/7/05
Slap Injury's of Bilateral Shoulders
Hyperlipidemia, Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthrosis, Bursitis, Tendonitis,
Tendonosis, Type ll Diabetes, Anemia, Asthma, Acid Reflux, IBS,
Migraine's, Sleep Apnea, Urinary Incontinence
Polyneuropathy, Edema of Bilateral Legs & Feet.