Can Back Pain Heal By Itself?
Lower back pain from a herniated disc can often lead to surgery but can back pain heal itself? However, there are patients with this painful condition that can successfully “ride it out”. In fact, repeated MRI imaging six to twelve months later frequently show little evidence of the original herniation. How is this possible?
The current theory is that there may be unique interaction between molecular signals that may explain why some herniated discs heal themselves while others don’t. Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are investigating this and published a report on their progress in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Lower back pain affects 60-80% of Americans during their lifetime. In fact, there are upwards of 300,000 surgeries for herniated discs annually in the US alone. A disc is like a jelly doughnut with a thick outer ring and a jelly center. When the outer fibers tear or give way, the semi-fluid center leaks out. If this material hits the spinal cord or nerve root exiting between the vertebra, sciatica (leg pain) results.
How Can a Herniated Disc Heal Itself?
Dr. Dan Spengler, Orthopedic surgery specialist, states that about 50% of patients with disc herniation will improve within six weeks. The herniated material completely resorbing over time. The question is why this doesn’t occur with everyone.
Looking at the tissue that are frequently present when discs herniate, research has identified proteins (matrixmetalloproteinases or MMPs) that have the ability to dissolve other proteins. This may be why some discs resorb while others don’t. When discs herniate, bleeding occurs and white blood cells (macrophages) enter the area and help ingest foreign materials and bacteria. When this combination of macrophages and MMPs interact, disk resorption occurred.
The bottom line is unless you are having muscle weakness, sensory or radiating pain that is worsening, and/or especially bowel or bladder weakness, you should be in no hurry to have surgery. Doctors of chiropractic can offer natural, non-invasive treatments to manage pain while you let your body manage the herniation.