Is the news of a bulged disk really significant? According to a study conducted years ago by Maureen C. Jensen and Jeffrey S. Ross and published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, not at all. Many other studies have been repeated over the last two decades and the results have been duplicated and validated. The shocking news was that half the adults, according to this study, had a bulge in their disk. The fascinating and surprising fact is that none of the individuals experienced any back pain. None whatsoever.
Yet most doctors will send you for some sort of imaging or screening, to provide to you proof of a bulged or herniated disk, when you come to see them for lower back pain. As has been shown in the study, this condition apparently exists in most of us anyway. There might not be any relationship between a bulged or herniated disk and pain in your lower back, at least based on scientific facts. If we go to scientists such as physicians seeking advice and treatment, we should at least receive scientific based evidence of the suspected reason for our pains.
If an X-ray shows a broken bone, you would suspect you have broken your bone. If you have severe pain in your leg after experiencing a fall, chances are high you broke a bone. To validate this hypothesis you take an image of your bone. However, this is the exact finding of this study, rules out the direct correlation between lower back pain and bulging disks.
Here are the concluding remarks of the study.
“On MRI examination of the lumbar spine, many people without back pain have disk bulges or protrusions but not extrusions. Given the high prevalence of these findings and of back pain, the discovery by MRI of bulges or protrusions in people with low back pain may frequently be coincidental.”
Coincidental? That is not the term my doctor used when we observed my MRI results. Which raises the greater question, why send me to have an MRI in the first place. His reasoning at the time was to verify that it was not a bulged disk. Perhaps my physician was not updated by the latest research studies. The unfortunate truth is that most doctors are not.
MRI and CAT scans are still called for, even though they have been ruled out as unnecessary. Ultimately the results of your condition will be the same whether you had imaging and discovered a bulged disk or just went about your business knowing that you have a fifty percent chance of having a bulged disk anyway, pain or not.
How’s your back?