Lumbar disc herniation is a very common condition which often generates pain and disability. It is a physiological process that starts from the inside out as the nucleus pushes radially into the annulus fibrosus. But not all disc herniations cause pain, and many of them don’t cause long-term disability.
The literature has been quite varied in answering questions surrounding resorption rate. Yes, many disc herniations resorb, and it is believed to be due to the anaerobic and avascular nature of the nucleus pulposus. Once the material extends beyond the annular outskirts, the immune system identifies it as foreign and macrophages begin to chew it up.
But not all lumbar disc herniations are equal while some respond to manual therapy and some do not. Some cases require surgery to remove the offending material.
In a recent meta-analysis titled: ‘Incidence of spontaneous resorption of lumbar disc herniation’ 1 a group of authors looked at 11 cohort studies but found only a very limited number of high-quality papers on the subject. What they found was the phenomenon of lumbar disc herniation resorption to be 66.66% and suggested that conservative treatment may be a first line approach to reduce costs associated with unnecessary surgical bills.
Disc herniations are quite varied in nature, and this is likely why there is such variability in the outcomes reported regarding resorption and pain. As a spine modeling company which continuously invests in the property characteristics of materials, we have found that subtle changes to the nucleus pulposus make-up and annulus fibrosus tensile properties have a significant impact on the biomechanical behaviour of our lumbar disc herniation model.
Many mechanically anatomical variations exist which can cause a wide spread of varying symptoms. These symptoms are likely related to the type of herniations with some more central within the spinal canal and others are more lateral. Further to that, Depending on the severity, an astute clinician can be relatively accurate in the anatomical location to help in the mechanical management of lumbar disc herniation.
To see how a spine surgeon uses the model to explain a lumbar disc herniation while referencing an MRI, we present Iona Collins of fixmyspine below.