Do I Need Surgery for A Disc Injury?
The short answer, Probably not!
This topic comes up almost daily in Pain Relief Limerick. It gets brought up in different ways. The most common one is that someone has had surgery on a disc problem and their back pain has not gone away. Very often someone will come in with an MRI result showing bulging discs, or herniated discs, or disc degeneration and asking will surgery fix this. Some people come looking for a second opinion after being told by a Doctor or Surgeon that they need surgery.
A second opinion is always the best idea. You want surgery to be the last option, especially because when it comes to bulging discs, herniated discs, disc degeneration or any other disc related diagnoses you may have been given, these are rarely the cause of your pain.
Take the first and most common scenario I gave earlier, someone who has had surgery but the pain either hasn’t gone away or has returned after a short period. What this tells me is, this person didn’t need this particular surgery and the pain they were experiencing was coming from somewhere else, otherwise the surgery would have worked.
But just because the MRI showed a disc problem, some medical professionals are blinkered and fail to consider other possible reasons for the back pain. These people often end up having surgery because of what an MRI shows instead of trying to figure out exactly what is causing the pain and addressing that first. So it is always a better and safer option to seek a second opinion if you are referred for surgery.
So what are these disc problems?
Everybody’s discs degenerate, it’s called ageing. Think of an MRI like a photograph. If you take a picture of your discs when you are 20, and then when you are 50, there is likely to be changes. Just like if you take a photo of your face at 20 and again at 50, chances are there will be wrinkles. Degeneration of the discs is just like wrinkles on the skin, and I’ve never heard anyone tell me the wrinkles on their face hurt.
Discs can’t slip, it is a physical impossibility. If a medical professional tells you that you have a slipped disc, they don’t have a great understanding of this topic.
Bulging Disc/Herniated Disc:
This is where pressure on a disc can cause a part of the disc to stick out beyond the width of the vertebra. Sometimes this can cause the disc to impinge on a nerve and cause pain in surrounding areas, but most often it is bulging into an area which doesn’t cause pain, which means the pain you are feeling is likely to be coming from another area. If this is the case, surgery on the disc will make absolutely no difference as this is obviously not the problem. Still, surgery is often recommended for this type of issue.
Then your pain comes back in the future and you just feel unlucky because you are prone to back pain. This is not the case, again it is likely that surgery wasn’t necessary in the first place.
Imagine a bulging disc like a bulging belly. If your belly is bulging because you are overweight, you know that changing diet and exercise habits and maybe seeing a personal trainer will help you to lose the belly and keep it away. You wouldn’t go to a surgeon and ask him to cut it off. If you did, you wouldn’t have a bulging belly anymore, but the cause of you being overweight has not been addressed so you are likely to become overweight again in the not-too-distant future.
A disc is the same. Changing exercise and lifestyle habits and seeking help of a Physical Therapist can help you find the cause of the bulge and fix it for good. Like losing weight, it may take a little bit longer to fix than surgery, but it will have more effective results and longer lasting results and will benefit more than just your back.
So, chances are, you don’t need surgery for your bulging disc which has shown on an MRI. I usually encourage people to get Physical Therapy before an MRI so you won’t have the idea of a bulging disc worrying you when it is more likely to be something else causing your pain.
If you are worried about your MRI results, give us a call. Book in for a Consultation, which is FREE, and we can discuss your MRI findings and what implications it may have for you and what course of action is most advisable for you!