Can Bad Backs Heal Themselves?

woman pressing her sore back with both hands

You’re probably thinking I’m going to say, “No!  Come in for an adjustment.”  Well, that’s what I’m going to say most of the time, but in this post, I’m going to surprise you.

In some very special circumstances (so don’t get your hopes up too high) bad backs can heal themselves.  Science is finding out how this could possibly be the case.  So, my answer to the question “Can bad backs heal themselves?” is “sometimes”.

The mystery of the healed herniated disc.

Doctors have long marveled at the fact that some patients with lower back pain as the result of a herniated disc are returning for MRIs which subsequently show the disc to be healed.  There’s often little or no indication that there was everything wrong with the disc to begin with.

Head scratcher, right?

But in January 2016, the Journal of Clinical Investigation published research findings from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  It seems that the mystery of the healed herniated disc features a smoking gun on the molecular level.

Why some and not others?

More than three quarters of Americans will suffer from lower back pain, at some point in their lives.  Up to half of those diagnosed with herniated discs recover from the herniation.

So, why not all of them?  That’s the question that’s been baffling medical practitioners and researchers alike.

And here’s where the smoking gun comes in.

Matric metalloproteinases (known as MMPs) are a specific type of molecule present when discs herniate.  What these guys do is chew up protein at the site of the herniation.  They’ve been identified as the smoking gun in this intriguing mystery.

But MMPs have accomplices, also present at the scene of the crime.  White bloods cells called macrophages are present when herniations bleed.  Their job is to destroy the evidence – consuming bacteria and anything else that doesn’t belong in the area.

And so, it’s the action of the MMPs and macrophages working together that consumes the herniation.  Scientists have even been able to reproduce the work of these central players in our mystery, in the laboratory.

Are MMPs and macrophages the future of back pain?

Medical miracles are made every day and the Vanderbilt research project is shedding light on the molecular foundation of herniations which heal themselves.

At 43rd Street Medical, we’re excited to hear more about what this research means to back pain sufferers and the treatment of herniated discs.  Could the smoking gun in this medical mystery mean the end of surgery for disc herniations as we know it?

Don’t touch that dial!  Once science knows how something works, it likes to find ways to make it work for us.

The team at 43rd Street Medical knows backs.  We offer 360˚, multi-disciplinarian care that treats every patient as a unique individual.

Not all bad backs heal themselves, even though it seems the mystery of the healed herniation is being solved.  If you’ve got back or neck pain, our suite of leading edge therapies can help.  Book an appointment and let’s get you feeling better.