Do Disc Herniations Heal?

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April 5, 2016

The answer is simply- YES, they do.

Discs are made of fibrocartilage, which is a very strong, supportive material made to withstand a lot of stress. Their inner materials are softer, and when a disc ruptures, or herniates, the inner material wedges through the crack like squeezing a jelly donut.

This tear in your disc is analogous to a cut in your skin. You create a scab and after a little while the scab falls off and the tissue underneath has healed. The disc forms a scab as well, and then heals from the inside out, continually creating layers of harder disc material to strengthen the disc until it is healed. As this is happening, white blood cells are eating away at any floating or separated material.

Discs lack a blood supply, and therefore rely more on movement, or disc hydration to create an environment that causes diffusion of nutrients across a gradient to keep the disc healthy, or heal it in cases of disc injury.

Due to the herniation, there is considerable amounts of inflammation that occur, irritating the nerves, resulting in pain, numbness, tingling and in many cases weakness in the upper or lower extremity. The pain nerves, or type-C fibers often become sensitized as MIA’s, or mechanically sensitive afferents, become overly stimulated due to the chronic pain and therefore must be inhibited via larger diameter afferents, or type A fibers.

What does this mean? It means that in order to heal a disc, we must induce motion (type A fibers) to not only inhibit type-C MIA’s, but also to absorb the materials needed for healing through disc hydration, or imbibition.

How do we do this? The best form of hydration and movement to an injured disc is achieved through disc decompression therapy, which induces movement at the disc level, allowing absorption of nutrients, fluids and oxygen that is absolutely necessary for healing at an appropriate rate. At Portland Chiropractic Neurology in Portland, Maine, that is an essential therapy for Disc Herniations.