This is a question we receive often here at Neurosurgery & Spine Consultants. The answer to this question can be complicated, as the answer is entirely dependent upon your unique disc herniation. Some herniated discs are quite severe and may require surgical intervention, while some herniated discs are so mild, you may not even realize you have one to begin with. All in all, herniated discs are not fun. We’re going to explore various ways we can help your herniated disc heal and explain the benefits of taking care of your body in the first place to avoid herniated discs throughout your life.
Yes & No: Your Herniated Disc May Likely Heal On Its Own, But Will It Fully Heal?
Most herniated discs will inevitably end up healing on their own. “Time heals all wounds…” is quite often the case when it comes to disc herniations. Yet, what if your herniated disc is reaching the point where it’s still not fully healed after an extended period of time? This is where we may be able to help you recover fully and become pain-free through a variety of strategies. We’ll explain all of the available options you ‘ll have at your disposal when you choose to work with Neurosurgery & Spine Consultants.
The Oreo Analogy
The oreo analogy is often used by neurosurgeons to describe how the discs are constructed throughout the spine. The white cream in the middle of the oreo represents the soft inner part of the vertebrae of the spine known as the nucleus, while the cookies represent the annulus, or outer area of the disc itself. When there is compression of an oreo cookie, the white cream will protrude outwards. The same can be said for your discs. When there is too much compression or or an actual blunt force injury to your discs, the nucleus will protrude outwards, causing pain, discomfort, and pressure on the nerve. This can introduce many complications including weakness, numbness, pain, or neuropathy.
Your Body’s Natural Response
Your body will often have a natural response, as long as you’re relatively healthy, to the disc herniation. The human body will attempt to repair the herniation through a number of ways, yet it’s most commonly going to attempt to attack the nucleus which has escaped your herniated disc. This may in turn reduce the herniation itself and subsequently reduce pain, discomfort, and other symptoms.
Immune System Response
As described above, the immune system response our body provides may end up saving us from a great deal of pain and discomfort over time. Sometimes this works to resolve the problem, sometimes it does not. Either way, your body will keep attempting to heal you up over time, so sometimes it’s simply a matter of playing the waiting game when it comes to letting your herniated disc heal up.
Water Absorption of the Disc
When the nucleus of the disc is sitting outside of the disc itself, it may become dehydrated over time and shrink. This can lead to reduced nerve compression and a subsequent reduction in overall symptoms. With this being said, it’s still very important to stay adequately hydrated throughout the day as you go through the recovery process of healing your disc herniation. Learn more about why avoiding dehydration is crucial for neck, and, and spine health.
Reincorporating mild exercise and physical therapy regimens can help you reach a full recovery over time as the natural motion of your body movement will likely help reintroduce much needed circulation throughout the body. In turn, this may help with your herniated disc to regain normal functionality and help reduce your overall recovery time.
Ways to Improve the Overall Healing Time
Below are a few additional ways to help reduce the time it takes to heal from a herniated disc injury:
Try to Avoid Any Heavy Lifting Until You Begin to Feel Better
Lifting heavy objects can be straining even on individuals who don’t have a disc herniation. When you have herniated discs, especially in your lower back, any lifting may be detrimental to your recovery. It’s best to avoid lifting heavy objects as you slowly bounce back from the injury, especially if what caused your herniated disc in the first place was heavy lifting. As time progresses on and you begin to feel more and more comfortable with your natural movements, you may begin to incorporate light lifting as long as your physical therapist or medical provider gives you the “okay” to move forward.
Maintaining a High Protein Intake
Protein is paramount to any recovery. Whether it’s post-surgical care, strength training, or herniated disc recovery and healing; protein is your friend. Our entire body relies on adequate protein intake. When you’re protein-deficient, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Do the right thing for your disc herniation and begin incorporating healthy sources of protein into your daily diet.
Eating Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Reducing inflammation throughout the body can greatly assist your recovery with your herniated disc. Inflammation just further fuels the herniated discs itself. If you can avoid inflammatory foods, please do so. Avoiding highly-processed foods, cigarettes, alcohol, etc.., can do wonders for reducing your recovery time and will subsequently make you a healthier person altogether.
Proper Sleep, But Not Too Much Sleep
You’ll certainly want to sleep for 8-10 hours per night to allow your body adequate time to heal, yet you don’t want to spend all day in bed either. Too much time in bed may hinder your herniated disc recovery. The reasoning behind this is the fact you need to attempt to recalibrate your neck, back, and spine after an injury where the disc is herniated. If you’re not gently moving on a daily basis, you run the risk of making your herniated disc injury that much worse. Going on gentle walks throughout the neighborhood, or even just walking on a treadmill for five minutes a few times per day will help you maintain circulation and movement, which your body needs to recover properly.
Staying Adequately Hydrated
Properly hydrating your body with high-quality water will help everything work throughout your system. Dehydration impedes your recovery progression and may end up making things worse over time. Besides, who doesn’t love a nice glass of water to quench their thirst?
Stretching can help your body stay limber and flexible as you recover from your herniated disc. Stretching is great for maintaining circulation as well, which is crucial in aiding your recovery. Whether it’s yoga, a light five-minute stretch on the floor, or even some lunges to move your body; it’s all beneficial to ensure you’re moving throughout the day.
Staying Mobile & Mildly Active to Promote Circulation & Healing
As annoying as it may sound, when you’re recovering from a herniated disc, the last thing you’ll want to do is sit in bed or on the sofa all day. Yes, it’s important to rest initially when you’re first battling the injury, yet it’s equally important to maintain mild activity levels so you don’t experience muscle atrophy and become weakened to the point you’re worsening as time progresses.
Choosing Neurosurgery & Spine Consultants for Your Herniated Disc Treatment
If you’re seeking treatment options for your herniated disc please feel free to contact us using the form below. We’ll be sure to respond to your message as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you soon!
DISCLAIMER: No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.