The Innate Healing Ability of the Intervertebral Discs

Intervertebral discs are cushion-like structures located between the vertebrae of the spine. They function as shock absorbers to protect the spine. Intervertebral discs have two parts: a tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and a gel-like inner core called the nucleus pulposus. Intervertebral discs are crucial in providing flexibility to the spine and protecting the delicate nerves through the spine.

Several factors influence the ability of intervertebral discs to heal on their own

  1. Blood Supply:
    • The outer layer of the intervertebral disc, the annulus fibrosus, is avascular, meaning it lacks a direct blood supply. During the second decade of life, the blood supply starts to recede. The reason behind this recession is not fully understood yet.
    • However, this outermost annulus fibrosus layer has some blood vessels. These vessels can contribute to the healing process by supplying nutrients and facilitating the repair of small tears or injuries in the outer layers.
  2. Cellular Activity:
    • Discs contain cells called fibroblasts, which are involved in the production of collagen and other structural components. These cells play a role in the repair of damaged tissue. Additionally, cells within the outer layer of the annulus fibrosus can contribute to the healing process by producing new collagen fibers.
  3. Regenerative Capacity:
    • The nucleus pulposus, the inner core of the intervertebral disc, has some regenerative capacity. It contains water, proteoglycans, and other substances that can contribute to restoring disc height and hydration.
    • These substances, such as proteoglycans, are water-attracting molecules. This is how non-invasive treatments like non-surgical spinal decompression help the intervertebral disc to heal.
  4. Inflammatory Response:
    • In response to injury or damage, the body initiates an inflammatory response. While inflammation is generally associated with pain and discomfort, it is also a natural part of healing. Inflammation can bring immune cells and nutrients to the affected area, aiding in the repair of damaged tissue.
    • Non-invasive treatments such as Class-IV laser therapy can help manage the inflammatory process and stimulate healing.
  5. Microtrauma Repair:
    • The body can repair small injuries or microtrauma that may occur in the intervertebral discs over time. These small injuries can be part of the normal wear and tear associated with daily activities, and the body’s repair mechanisms help maintain the overall health of the discs.


It’s important to note that the intervertebral discs do have a propensity to heal, given the correct environment and treatment. According to medical literature, non-invasive treatments such as non-surgical spinal decompression have a success rate of 88-92% across the United States. This is an exciting development in the treatment of spine pain as this treatment is cost-effective and highly effective. Without any intervention, the healing capacity of intervertebral discs is limited, and severe injuries or degeneration may require more intensive treatments.

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