Herniated disc recovery time is a tricky thing to figure out, since the majority of disc abnormalities do not generally heal, or even need healing, because they do not source any pain. Some disc bulges and herniations will resolve structurally, while others will remain unchanged. Still other disc irregularities might worsen with time. Regardless, none of these scenarios guarantees that pain will ever be present or will be eventually relieved. In essence, what I am saying here is that most herniations do not cause back or neck pain. Therefore, they do not need to resolve in order for the patient to continue living a normal and unrestricted life.
Furthermore, for patients with pain, the disc may not be the actual source. If it is indeed the confirmed underlying process, there is still no knowing if it will resolve with time alone, whether it may need conservative care, whether it may require surgical intervention or whether it will never respond to treatment at all. Unfortunately, this is because herniations are extremely case-specific spinal conditions and no generalization about their nature will ever apply universally.
This essay tackles the difficult subject of recovery timeline for herniated disc sufferers.
Degenerative herniated discs will usually never heal on their own, since the spinal aging processes are not reversible and have a tendency to worsen with time. This is logical, since there is no way to turn back the clock and counteract the consequences of age on any anatomical region. However, just because spinal degeneration has caused a herniation does not typically mean that the patient will experience pain. Clinical research demonstrates no correlation between herniations and the incidence of back, neck or sciatica pain. This is a well documented medical fact.
Of course, this is not the say that a degenerative herniation can not cause pain, since it surely can. However, there is no inherent painful component to these disc abnormalities and many more exist in asymptomatic form than ever cause any discomfort or neurological dysfunction. So, degeneration is not likely to ever heal, but then again, it is not likely to require healing.
For the minority of patients with verified herniated disc symptoms from a degenerative disc pathology, the neurological interaction may need to be addressed in order for the patient to find lasting relief, but the disc itself may not require any repair.
Most back injuries will be painful, regardless of whether or not they cause an intervertebral herniation in the spine. Although herniations can occur from traumatic events, many are incorrectly linked to an accident or injury which did not cause them.
I see imaging studies all the time from patients who were recently involved in a car accident or fall which is theorized to cause their herniated disc. However, the imaging studies clearly show widespread degenerative and arthritic changes to the vertebral bones, indicating that the bulges were likely there for some time before the catastrophe. In some scenarios, the herniation is partially calcified, demonstrating the passage of years of time prior to the suspected causative incident.
Painful herniations which do result from injury will usually resolve in 2 to 8 weeks time and will not normally enact chronic pain. Of those which do continue to hurt, conservative or surgical treatment should successfully resolve the symptoms in the expected timeframe.
Always speak to your doctor prior to treatment to fully understand the prognosis for recovery, the length of the recuperation process and anything you can do to speed the healing process during and after therapy.
Most herniations are not painful. Those that are symptomatic should get better with or without professional care in a matter of weeks. The thought that a herniated disc, which has been actively treated for years, or even decades, is still producing pain is illogical and ludicrous. However, this is the experience of most diagnosed patients; myself included.
The answer of the obvious question of "Why?" is usually super simple: Misdiagnosis. This epidemic issue is at the heart of everything which is wrong in the back and neck pain industry and is the number one cause of failed disc pain treatments the world over. If the source of pain is not the disc, then how can any disc treatment cure it? This makes perfect sense.