It comes as a great surprise to many people to learn that 90% of all patients who have been diagnosed with a herniated disc get better on their own, without the need for surgery.
I always remind patients that the body wants to heal itself and is successful in doing so in the majority of cases. If you have symptoms for less than 4 weeks don’t give up on the hope that you will get better with time. In most cases, our bodies are able to do this without the need for an invasive procedure such as surgery.
How this actually happens is somewhat debatable, but most specialists in the field recognize that even a large herniated disc has the capacity to shrink in size and even resorb completely over a period of time. Along with the shrinking of the disc, the pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness may also resolve. For those patients lucky enough to have that occur, a surgery such as the anterior cervical discectomy and fusion will be out of the question. For the 10% or so of patients who do not get better over a period of time, surgery may be suggested.
Remember, the time period to get better is typically 6 weeks. 50% of patients are better within three weeks and 90% of patients are better by six weeks.
If your symptoms of pain related to a herniated disc in either the cervical spine or lumbar spine persist for more than six weeks, you may be a surgical candidate.