About Herniated Discs
A Herniated Disc is a condition characterized by herniation of the discs, which is a cushion present in between the vertebrae and forms an important part of the spinal column.(1) The discs act as a shock absorber and prevent the vertebrae of the spine from rubbing against each other during activities. A disc can get herniated by doing repetitive activities involving standing, lifting heavy items, and jumping. The adjoining nerves tend to get irritated as a result of disc herniation causing a variety of symptoms to include pain, numbness, and weakness in the upper and lower extremities. In some cases, a herniated disc may not cause any symptoms at all.
Another cause for a herniated disc is an annular tear which results from rupture of the annulus, which forms the protective layer on the outer portion of the disc. As a result of the rupture of the annulus, the interior part of the disc comes out of their position compressing the nerves and causing symptoms.
Can A Herniated Disc Heal On Its Own?
The answer to this question is that while it is true that the symptoms of a disc herniation can go away on its own without any intervention, but that does not in any way mean that the disc herniation has healed or resolved. There are basically two body processes that are involved, which result in the symptoms of herniated disc fading away after some time. These processes are:
Immune Response: Sometimes, the herniated disc is identified by the immune system of the body as a foreign substance to which it reacts and triggers an immune response. This causes the disc fragment that is herniated to shrink in size resulting in overall improvement of symptoms.
Water Absorption: The herniated fragment consists of water. Over time, this water gets absorbed by body resulting in the herniated fragment to shrink in size causing resolution of symptoms.
The above two factors play a major role in resolution of symptoms of a herniated disc on its own without any medical intervention. However, shrinkage in the size of the herniated disc fragment does not in any way prove that there is no longer any disc herniation, but the symptoms caused due to compression or irritation of the nerves due to the size of the herniation definitely resolves due to the shrinkage in the size of the herniated fragment.
In conclusion, disc herniation does not heal on its own but there are body processes that cause the size of the herniated fragment to reduce such that the herniated fragment no longer compresses or irritates nearby nerve roots resulting in resolution of the symptoms. However, there is every chance that the size of the disc fragment may increase again causing recurrence of symptoms and thus, it is recommended that if an individual has been diagnosed with disc herniation, then the patient needs to get treated to completely get rid of the disc herniation.
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