How to Fix a Disc Herniation Without Surgery

Intervertebral disc herniation, commonly known as a slipped disc, is a typical modern-day problem.

Asia Medical Specialists Clinic in Hong Kong describes a slipped disc as a colloquial term for the cushioning tissue (intervertebral disc) between two vertebrae tearing and allowing the inner gel to seep out, which can irritate nearby nerves. The condition is also called disc prolapse or hernia,

Patients often feel low back and neck pain or experience lower limb paralysis.

Registered Chinese medicine practitioner Yuen Oi-lin shared how traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) repairs a slipped disc. She says that traditional Chinese medicine adopts a holistic treatment method that varies from person to person. Finding the root cause of the patient’s disc herniation is key to successful treatment.

She said patients who opt for TCM treatment of a slipped disc find it to be effective, less likely to relapse, and best of all, surgery-free.

Ranked number one in orthopedic treatments worldwide, Hospital for Special Surgery, HSS, wrote on its blog that a slipped disc in the lumbar spine area (lower back) does not slide around. Vertebrae discs are made up of a ring of tough collagen that surrounds a jellylike substance called the nucleus pulposus. If there is a break in that outer ring, the nucleus pulposus can escape through the crack and compress a nerve.

Dr. Yuen explained, “The intervertebral disc is the cartilage between the spine connected to the vertebrae, which acts as a shock proofer and shock absorber, which allows buffering to maintain the spine’s integrity.”

How the Condition Occurs

Dr. Yuen pointed out that slipped discs usually occur in the 4th to 6th vertebrae, that is, between the waist and the hip. The phenomenon is related to people frequently lowering their heads to look at electronic devices. “Disc herniation happens especially to middle-aged patients, as their bodies begin to age. Cartilage is the first to degenerate.

“If you maintain a specific posture for a prolonged period, the cartilage deformation between the vertebrae will cause nerve compression in the lower limbs, resulting in pain and paralysis.”

How is a Slipped Disc Diagnosed?

So how do patients know when they have a slipped disc? Dr. Yuen said there are several ways to detect the condition in traditional Chinese medicine.

Does the pain increase when the patient coughs or sneezes? Is it difficult to kneel or squat? If these symptoms are present, then herniation is suspected.

Dr. Yuen has her patients lie on their back and put one foot on the knee of the opposite leg and repeat using the other foot. Disc slip or bone spur is very likely if the patient feels any pain or strain when doing this move.

Western Versus Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine refers to physical pain, numbness, dysfunction, or paralysis.

It denotes that numbness or paralysis is motivated by wind, cold, and humidity. The three factors cause blockage, and is called inflammation in Western medicine.

In Western medicine, physicians rely on an MRI result to make a diagnosis.

In Chinese medicine, the remedy depends on whether a patient requires Chinese herbal medicine to repair their kidney and liver and revitalize the qi deficiency and blood circulation within the internal system.

The TCM results are positive if combined with cupping for blood circulation and acupuncture therapy for blockage.

A Case Study

One of Dr. Yuen’s patients was Tom (pseudonym), a government official who had a herniated disc. The 40-year-old patient could n’t walk due to his severely damaged knees. After visiting the hospital and obtaining an MRI report, Tom’s physician confirmed that he had a slipped disc and said he would require surgery to remove the cartilage.

His colleagues him referred to Dr. Yuen for a second opinion. She suggested a 10-session treatment plan, including cupping, acupuncture, and Chinese herbal medication. She said the patient could resume work within two weeks.

Why shouldn’t surgery be a patient’s first choice?

If the doctor takes the Western clinical approach, a surgeon would remove the slipped disc altogether. Since the disc will grow back, the patient might be risking the need for another painful operation in the future.

On the other hand, Chinese medicine focuses on treating the cause of the disc herniation, so it’s less likely to relapse. TCM believes in maintaining the human structure unaltered as much as possible. Removing any body may cause meridian damage and side effects, which is not a permanent cure.

Five organs are linked to various body parts through meridians, and each part of the body is managed separately.

The traditional Chinese medical book “Yellow Emperor’s Indoor Canon,” points out: “kidney controls the bones.” Therefore, treating a disc herniation means also nourishing the kidneys.

In addition to oral medication, acupuncture that targets the kidney meridians is used to speed up the healing process.

If a patient experiences a sense of cold air leaving from their skin or sweating more than usual, it indicates that the toxicity is dissipating through unlocked acupoints.

Dr. Yuen emphasized that looking after our muscles and bones helps eliminate diseases. Hence, maintaining a standard spinal curve is essential to human health. Many acupoints on both sides of the spine are connected to the viscera (internal organs). If a particular visceral cancer mutates, pressing that organ’s acupoint will trigger pain.

Caring For the Spinal Discs

Dr. Yuen suggested two simple steps to maintain a healthy spine: squatting and stretching the spine.

(1) Time Step

Relax your body. Make sure your hips are straight. Bend your knees slightly. Place Your hands in front of your abdomen as if they are holding a ball and hold for 15 minutes. practice daily. You may sweat slightly during the exercise, indicating detoxification is happening.

(2) Stretch

Stand straight with your legs slightly apart. Slowly bend forward until you can grab your ankles. If you cannot reach your ankles, hold your shins. The more you practice, the more you feel your spine opening up.

Traditional Medicine practitioner, Dr. Yuen Oi-lin, demonstrates stretching (L) and Zama step (R). (Photo by Production Team of 100 Ways to Heal Your Body)

Dr. Yuen expressed that she enjoys stretching and meditating in the sun. “Sunlight enhances microcirculation, prevents varicose veins, and strengthens our muscles and bones.” However, she reminded patients to start slowly and avoid overdoing it, or else they might sprain or fracture the cervical spine.


As for food therapy, Dr. Yuen recommends a soup containing hairy fig, Himalayan Teasel root, Millettia, and pork shank. The soup is family-friendly since it nourishes and restores the qi in the internal system, which helps prevent blockages and improves blood circulation.

Dr. Yuen suggests that beans and nuts are ideal for nourishing our kidneys. Any beans, such as soybeans, black beans, and pinto beans. The doctor joked, “Interestingly, the beans are shaped like our kidneys.”