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What happens if a herniated disc goes untreated

If you suffer from a herniated disc, failing to treat the problem area could have lasting affects on your health. If a herniated disc goes untreated it could not only continue to get worse, it could cause permanent damage. To get a better understanding of what you need to do to treat a herniated disc, you should know how it occurs and evolves over time.

Causes of Herniated Discs

A herniated disc occurs when the annulus (the outer fibers) of your intervertebral disc is damaged and the soft inner material of the nucleus pulposus (the inner core) ruptures out of its normal place. If the annulus tears near the spinal canal, the inner core material can push into the canal. This can happen in either of the cervical, thoracic, and more commonly, the lumbar spine. Because there is very little extra space surrounding your spinal cord, it is potentially very dangerous and can cause a lot of pain and discomfort when this space is compromised. The first indication of any disc issue is usually pain so it’s important to pay attention to your symptoms at their onset, particularly because a herniated disc could evolve from an untreated bulging disc. Though a herniated disc can evolve this way, there are a few other causes of ruptures:

  • Too much pressure all at once (Example: falling from a ladder and landing in a sitting position)
  • Small amount of force to weakened discs
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Bending
  • A “pinched nerve
  • Degenerative disc changes
  • Auto accident injuries (Example: whiplash, being rear-ended)
  • Slip and fall injuries

What Happens if the Herniated Disc Goes Untreated?

If a herniated disc goes untreated there can be lasting effects. Herniated discs can be treated and cured naturally without surgery, however if you wait too long to treat the injury it can lead you to an invasive surgery. A few other more extreme outcomes of a herniated disc being untreated it could lead to more permanent damage like paralysis or serious physical inability.

Herniated Disc Treatment Options

Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments that can be started to reduce the risk of more serious injury. A medical examination which may include physical tests for muscle strength, nerve function & response, and palpation is typically the initial step to determine the underlying cause of the pain. The exam is almost always accompanied by an X-ray, MRI or CT scan to obtain an official diagnosis that should match the exam findings. Once this is completed, chiropractic, medical massage, physical therapy and even acupuncture may be prescribed as a part of a treatment plan to alleviate/reduce the pain and restore functionality and motion. Spinal decompression is a non-invasive alternative to surgery for more chronic disc issues which has proven very effective in reducing compression and associated symptoms.


If you are experiencing any form of spinal pain, you should get evaluated before it gets any worse. Leaving a herniated disc untreated could cause lasting, irreparable damage to the effected area. Take time to try different non-surgery options, like chiropractic and decompression sessions, to help you begin to heal and prevent any future injuries.


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Posted in: Pain Management


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