24 Jun 2008 10:19 pm

Writer’s Block June 24

June 24, 2008

Can Herniated Discs Really Heal?

mailman

Reaching into the old mailbag again today.

Here’s a question from a reader who is concerned that her herniated discs won’t heal because she read that they have no blood supply.

Dear Dean,

I have been to your website several times and re-read many of the articles. Here is my story: In late May 2007 I started having low back pain on my left side.

My past history has been bouts with this (so I had been going to a chiropractor 1-2 times a week for several years – I was fine (pain free) – until May when I started to have problems. He increased my visits to 2-3 times. I did that till the end of this past Aug. 2007. I really was hurting and couldn’t stand for longer then 10-20 minutes.

Then I ordered Lose the Back Pain (workbook & videos) tried that for about 3 weeks (dedicated) nothing seemed to even be happening. Then I went to have DRX9000 – decompression pulls (18 pulls). They were horrible – I screamed, passed out after the 18th one cause of shooting pain and muscle spasms after getting off the machine. The Doctor agreed that 2 more (20 was the prescribed treatment amount) wouldn’t make a difference. I finished those about 3 weeks ago. Now $6,000 later I feel no better. Promises,promises!!!

[snip]

My concern is the 1st L5-S1. I understand what you mean about having herniated discs with NO pain – but the pain I’m feeling in my lower left back – which sporadically shoots out to the hip like a knife brings forth screams, and tears.

[snip]

[I read] that discs cannot heal because there is no blood supply. Can you please give me some more insight on everything I’m hearing about?

I await your reply,
Carol

My response…

Hi Carol,

Stories like yours make me very, very sad. It’s unfortunate that we consumers have to wade through so much misinformation, ignorance and foolishness before we (if ever) find the truth.

Herniated Disc

On the subject of healing: It’s true that disks, ligaments, tendons and nerves all essentially have little or no significant blood supply but this does not prevent them from healing. It just means they heal slower than tissues (such as muscle and skin) that receive their nourishment from blood.

Here’s what the medical experts are saying…

“Herniated discs can occur anywhere in the spine, but most occur in the lower back. Most herniated discs heal on their own over time (one to six months).” [1]

“In summary, when faced with a disc herniation… Don’t panic. As long as neurological deficits are not deteriorating, observation is warranted… Consider exercise a treatment for acute disc syndrome. Most patients get well on their own and many disc herniations disappear.” [2]

” … In fact, some of the worst looking disc herniations on scans produce very little and sometimes no symptoms at all… Furthermore, large disc herniations often shrink and totally disappear on scans reflecting the body’s ability to heal.” [3]

So you see, herniated discs can heal despite the fact that they have little or no blood supply.

I hope that clears up some of the confusion.

Sincerely,
Dean

References:

1. Herniated Disc, Cedars-Sinai Health System
http://www.csmc.edu/3003.html

2. Nelson, B. The Herniated Disc: New Concepts and Treatments. Physicians Neck & Back Clinics [2005] http://www.pnbconline.com/research/herinated_disc.htm

3. Nelson, B. Disc Syndromes. Physicians Neck & Back Clinics [2005] http://www.pnbconline.com/research/disc_syndrome.htm

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