New research shows that two thirds of herniated discs will reabsorb, leaving scientists questioning whether surgery should be considered as a treatment option.
Slipped, or herniated, discs can be an absolute nightmare if they flare up. Symptoms can range from mild tightness in the buttock or shoulder right through to incapacitating pain and weakness affecting both limbs and spine.
Soft gel-like material that sits in between each of the spine’s vertebra is subject to compression on a daily basis, particularly as a result of bending forwards and sitting. This compression causes the gel to spread outwards from between the vertebrae, narrowing the spaces through which nerves pass.
Because of the prevalence of this problem, affecting up to 80% of people, scientists are continually looking for solutions.
It has been known for many years that when the disc’s gel material herniates, your body has the capacity to clear this material away. A herniation causes an inflammatory response, which draws immune cells to the area. These immune cells effectively eat the herniated material, restoring the space around the nerves in your spine.
For the first time, this year a scientists have analysed all of the existing research on this phenomenon and determined that 66% of disc herniations will eventually spontaneously reabsorb. Interestingly, results from data gathered only in the UK showed a greater than 80% rate of reabsorption.
This is great news in terms of the treatment of disc herniations. Typically, conservative management (ie. exercise, manual therapy, pain medication) is very effective for relieving the symptoms of disc herniations, and now we can say that the long term outlook is also favourable for people treated this way.