The reason after a third herniated that disc fusion is recommended has two different reasons. The first is that the nerve root cannot afford to be “banged into” (compressed by a disc hernation) three times. From years of trial and error, we have found that the nerve can only take so much before it permamently malfunctions (chronic radiculopathy-see website). There are even unusual disc herniations that cause permanent damage after just one herniation.
The other reason for fusion is that after the third herniation, the chance of recurrent disc herniation goes up to almost 50%. The chance of recurrent disc herniaton after one is still about 10% but the third seems to have a much greater chance of recurrency rate.
The fusion does require some down time but your nerve is very important and a chronically injured nerve is not something you want.
Donald Corenman, MD, DC is a highly-regarded spine surgeon, considered an expert in the area of neck and back pain. Trained as both a Medical Doctor and Doctor of Chiropractic, Dr. Corenman earned academic appointments as Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and his research on spine surgery and rehabilitation has resulted in the publication of multiple peer-reviewed articles and two books.