How long does it take for a herniated disc to heal without surgery?

Healing a Herniated Disc Without Surgery | Armor PT

Surgery is usually a last resort for most injuries and medical conditions that can’t be efficiently treated by other methods. Many people naturally heal from their injuries over time, or their medical condition symptoms can be managed without the need for a surgical procedure. 

A herniated disc is a condition that causes back pain that can interfere with your quality of life. The good news is that most herniated discs can heal on their own without surgery. On average, it can take up to six weeks to heal from a ruptured disc, though every case is different. But even though it can naturally heal with time, it’s important to explore the treatment options that will help accelerate the recovery process by decreasing pain and increasing range of motion.

Read on to learn about the basics of herniated discs and how to help them heal without surgery.

What is a herniated disc?

A herniated disc, often known as a ruptured or slipped disc, is a condition that refers to a spinal disc that’s protruding from the spinal cord. Between the vertebrae in your spine, there are discs that work as shock absorbers. The exterior, or the annulus, of the disc can tear and cause the nucleus from the center of the disc to leak out. The nucleus pushes against the spinal nerve roots.

A herniated disc is usually caused by degeneration from gradual wear and tear as you age. It can also be caused by lifting heavy objects, especially lifting with awkward twisting.

The most common symptom of disc herniation is pain that can flare up in different ways, including:

  • Pain that increases with certain activities and movements.
  • Pain that worsens at night.
  • Pain after walking, standing or sitting.
  • Pain on one side of the body.
  • Pain in your legs and arms.

The pain can also be coupled with other symptoms, such as:

  • Tingling.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Reduced range of motion.

Treating herniated discs without surgery

While recovery from a herniated disc looks different for everyone, many cases of the condition heal in about six weeks without surgery. But even so, the symptoms can interfere with a person’s daily life. That’s why there are several treatment options to explore to accelerate the healing process and reduce pain. Be sure to consult with your health care provider to determine which treatment will work best for you. Their recommendations will be based on symptoms and the severity of your condition. 

If your herniated disc is causing pain and reduced mobility, then here are some treatment options that can help:

  • Medicine — To temporarily decrease your pain, ask your health care provider about taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin. They may recommend muscle relaxers or prescription-strength medicine based on the severity of your slipped disc.

  • Limited rest — While rest is important for many types of medical conditions and injuries, too much rest while healing from a herniated disc can cause stiff joints and weak muscles. Try to limit your amount of rest during the day, and participate in low-impact activities such as walking around your neighborhood.

  • Manual therapy — With hands-on techniques, your physical therapist can alleviate your pain and increase mobility by manipulating your soft tissue in the affected area. For herniated discs, they may utilize techniques like joint mobilization and soft tissue mobilization, where the physical therapist uses their hands to decrease the painful tension in the surrounding muscles.

  • Targeted exercises — A physical therapist can design a personalized exercise plan that will help increase the strength and flexibility of your muscles and decrease the pressure being placed on the nerves. They will walk you through gentle and effective exercises that will help alleviate the pain and reduce the risk of future injury by strengthening the support for your spine.

Armor Physical Therapy can help heal your herniated disc without surgery

Herniated discs can often heal in less than six weeks without a surgical procedure, but there are several treatment options that can help with pain management and decreased mobility. With the help of physical therapy methods like joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization and targeted therapeutic exercises, you can accelerate the healing process and get back to your regular routines.

At Armor Physical Therapy, we can provide treatment for your herniated disc as well as increase the flexibility and strength of the affected muscles to help avoid future injury and pain.

Contact us today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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