Can a torn disc heal on its own?

A torn disc, also known as an annular tear, happens when the tough outer layer of a spinal disc develops a tear. The single biggest contributor to this common condition is the natural aging process, which causes the spinal discs to dry out and lose elasticity. This in turn makes the fibrous outer layer of the discs, called the annulus fibrosus, prone to developing small cracks that can eventually turn into larger rips or tears.

Torn discs are not always painful, or may only result in minor irritation of the small nerves in the disc wall. This condition can lead to disc herniation or rupturing as pressure on the disc pushes the softer inner material, or nucleus pulposus, through the tear. Herniated disc material can then cause more painful compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots, resulting in radiating symptoms both locally and in the extremities. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, you may be wondering if a torn disc can heal on its own, or if it is nonreversible. The following information can help you better understand the healing process for spinal discs and take the necessary steps to promote the health of your spine.

Tips for improving disc health

While discs tears are often related to the natural aging process of the spine, which no one can avoid, it is possible for individual instances of this condition to heal. This is one of the reasons why doctors will almost always first treat degenerative disc conditions with conservative options so that the progress of the condition can be monitored.

The healing process for the spinal discs can be slower than other parts of the body because the discs have a relatively small blood supply, meaning less healing nutrients can come to repair issues like disc tears. By taking as many steps as possible to both promote blood flow and relieve the pressure being placed on the discs, patients with a torn disc can give themselves the best chance of their condition improving on its own. To do so, doctors will generally recommend the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get regular exercise to improve cardiovascular health and strengthen the supporting muscles
  • Eat healthy foods that are anti-inflammatory
  • Avoid tobacco products and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Practice good posture

Treatment options for a torn disc

For a very large number of patients, nonsurgical pain relief methods like physical therapy and medication combined with the above healthy lifestyle choices can help a torn disc heal on its own. If you have exhausted conservative treatments and want to learn more about surgery for a torn disc, contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn about the benefits of our minimally invasive spine surgery.

We’ll be happy to provide a free MRI review to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.