Herniated Discs – What’s a Buldge, Protrusion, Herniation?

Herniated Discs – What Do You Do About Them?

I have a herniated disc in the Cervical Spine, and a couple of bulging or protruding discs. I hope to help you by publishing research and advice about treatments obtained from other sufferers who have “been there” and have recovered to living a pain free normal existence once again. The most beneficial early treatments when you first feel your symptoms are those that release my contracted muscles – hydrotherapy (Moist Heat), bed rest with a cervical pillow, and gentle massage. I believe a Herniated Disc will not heal until the underlying soft tissue problems and muscle contraction is resolved removing the abnormal pressure in the Disc. Remember Discs have very little blood supply to bring them healing nutrients.

Intervertebral discs make up about one-third of the length of the spine and constitute the largest organ in the body without its own blood supply. The discs receive their blood supply through movement as they soak up nutrients. The discs expand while at rest allowing them to soak up nutrient rich fluid. When this process is inhibited through repetitive movement, injury or poor posture, the discs become thinner and more prone to injury. This may be a cause of the gradual degeneration of the structure and function of the disc over time

What Treatments are Available? What is “Conservative Therapy”?

Conservative therapy for me has been a succession of Doctors telling me to go home and get better, with an occasional prescription for Physical Therapy. Or I’ll get a handful of prescriptions for expensive drugs that do not help. The most laughable is the generic exercise pamphlet! All you have to do is take it home and do those exercises!

A prescription and and exercise pamphlet is the Doctors way of telling you to go home and let your body heal itself because they don’t think surgery is warranted and they don’t believe your problem is severe.

Unfortunately for most it’s up to you to fix your posture, eat right, and hope for the best. But isn’t that why you go to the Doctor, to learn what is wrong and how to fix it? Seems like a weird “Catch 22″… if we knew how to fix ourselves we wouldn’t need Doctors, but the Doctors just send us on our way (After draining our wallets!) to go home and fix ourselves.

The Treatments for Herniated Discs are the same as for Bulging Discs or Protrusions. Conservative Therapy is really any therapy short of surgery. I write extensively on many different Treatment Options here on HealthSynergyRx.com so I won’t cover specific treatments on this post.

Nomenclature – Disc Buldge, Disc Protrusion, Disc Herniation?

Ask a radiologist to define what he sees in your MRI and you may have one call it a bulge and the next a protrusion. Herniations on the other hand are pretty clear, the disc material has broken out of it’s shell and is spilling like toothpaste into adjacent areas. Please see our post on MRI Reports for more information on understanding the technical terms used to describe degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, etc.

What is Absorption?

Absorption is the process by which your body naturally reabsorbs or shrinks the disc material thereby making the Herniations smaller. This is part of the healing process and a good thing. Often this is enough to get the herniated disc to stop irritating the nerves in the formina or central canal. This appears to be more common in acute injuries than chronic injuries (from the dozens of case studies I’ve read). However it’s possible (by means doctors can not yet tell) that any herniated material can be naturally reduced in size to the point where it disappears. This unfortunately does not refill the disc with fluid – it becomes flatter, but it does take the pressure of the material that has spewed out off of the surrounding nervous tissues.

How long will it take for My Discs to Heal?

126 days! Okay I’m kidding. Wouldn’t that be nice. Wouldn’t it be great if the Doctors could tell you how long it takes? They can’t. You hear the same thing “Each person and each injury is different”. This means simply I do not know and can not tell you when or if your injury will heal and when or if your pain will stop. That’s the unfortunate circumstance which revolves this insidious condition. Here is an excellent article on Disk Healing you should take the time to read.

Should You Have Spinal Surgery?

No, No, No – maybe! Let me tell you a related story. I had severe tooth pain for over a week. I went to my dentist (whom I trust). He X-Rayed the suspect teeth. He found the suspected source of pain. The root was swollen slightly. There was some evidence that a previous filling at the gum line was so close to the nerve that it was also causing the pain. But what do you do? Well obviously you STOP the pain! He removed the filling, drilled out the top of the nerve, filled it with pain killing anesthetic, capped it with a temporary filling and told me I need a root canal. He killed my tooth without even asking me. That’s what Dentists do. I’m not sure my pain was bad enough to warrant destroying the nerve tissue in my tooth – but it was too late!

Now the reason I mention this tooth problem on a page about dics is they are related. And here is how. My tooth is now DEAD! At this point it can not be fixed. I had hoped that Dental science had come to the point where they could inject an anti-bacterial agent into the tooth to kill the disease causing bacteria. Perhaps vitamin and mineral supplements to strengthen and grow the pulp or enamel so that the injury could heal itself. I guess what I am saying is my hope was the tooth could be saved by stopping the pain long enough to let my body heal itself.

Dental science has not reached that point. My tooth is now dead and I must deal with it. My options? Root Canal (You can not clean out the canals 100% – some bacteria will always remain, the goal is to get as much out as possible and seal it), implant or having the tooth pulled. Yikes. Dental is the only profession where they leave dead tissue in the body – bad idea?

But the alternatives may be even worse. Extract the tooth – then you have to fill the gap so the other teeth don’t move. They do that with Crowns and Bridges. So I lose one tooth they want to grind down and crown two healthy teeth so they will have a bridge? The Dentist advised against “resin bridges” as they usually fail. So my point is this. I now have a dead tooth. I chose to stop the pain. I don’t know if I had an option.

With Disc Pain you might have options if you can live with the disc pain long enough to allow your body to heal itself. If you choose surgery early on and they remove the Disc, you (like my tooth) are done. You’re options are now limited. You can not stick Your Disc back inside the Vertebrae. You’re option is artificial disc or more fusion surgery if things go south. So my advice (and I’m going through this myself and it’s miserable suffering most days) is at least give your body a chance to heal itself.

So how long should you wait? if you wait 5 years and and don’t get better then you wasted 5 years. If and it’s a big “If” the surgery would have alleviated your problem, you’re are going to have regrets for not having surgery. It’s a gamble. It’s all a huge gamble. But what can you do? All you can do is do your best and try every conservative option available to you before surgery.

We expect our Doctors to fix us and to fix us FAST! Spinal problems seldom care about “fast”… they will do as they please. And here is the absolute worst part. Surgery doesn’t always stop the pain or fix the problem, it can even make it worse! Then what do you do? Quite a nice little trick the human spine. Designed by it’s maker to start self destructing in between decade 1 and 2 of life! And usually not even a warning when it’s getting bad. It’s the lottery of life.

Please take the time to read about all the Treatments and Therapies I write about BEFORE you decide to have surgery. You might just find something that works for you! You can always have surgery later (As long as your symptoms are just pain and not Neurological).

Posted by on Jul 12th, 2008 and filed under Back Pain, Neck Pain. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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