As a Chiropractor in Bellevue, WA for the past 16 years, I’ve seen my share of people suffering from lower back pain. The causes can vary from lifting injuries, car accident, and sports injuries, to something as simple as poor posture. But one type that always interests me is the individual who has been diagnosed as having lower back pain from a bulging disc.
It’s not uncommon for these types of cases to come to me as a last resort, after trying a number of different treatment methods without relief. Now, a bulging disc may very well be the cause of your lower back pain, but some credible studies have shown that this isn’t always the case. And based on my experience, I would tend to agree.
The Disc Bulge Treatment Cycle, and How People Get Stuck in it
The scenario is more common than you would think: you develop lower back pain after a car crash, or playing sports, or sitting at a desk, or maybe you just wake with it. You pay a visit to your doctor, whereupon a MRI or other imaging is ordered. And guess what? You have a bulging disc in your lower back.
At this point you may be prescribed pain killers or anti inflammatory medication. If that doesn’t work, the next plan of attack may be a prescription for physical therapy or massage. If those treatment interventions don’t work, you may be prescribed injections to the area around the disc. Maybe that doesn’t work either. So now what?
Disc Bulges Don’t Always Cause Lower Back Pain
The risk here is that your disc bulge may not be the cause of your pain at all. Please hear me out… In a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most respected medical journals in the world, researchers performed lower back MRI studies on 98 people with NO lower back pain. The study was conducted to see just how common disc bulges were in people who have never had lower back pain before. The findings might surprise you:
- 52% of people had at least one disc bulge in their lower backs, even though they didn’t have lower back pain.
- 27% had a disc protrusion in their lower back (a more serious disc bulge), even without back pain.
What this study is saying is that a bulging disc doesn’t necessarily cause pain. Which means, if your pain is caused by something else, treating a disc bulge may not give you any relief at all.
If Your Lower Back Pain Fails To Improve, Don’t Give Up!
Even if you have a bulging disc, there may be something else that’s contributing to your pain. Maybe the bulge isn’t causing a problem, and something else completely different is causing your suffering. Make sure you ask questions, and listen to your gut!
If you don’t get any relief after a realistic period of time, maybe something else is to blame. Perhaps your pain is the result of a pinched nerve, a misaligned joint, or a muscle strain, or even something as simple as poor posture.
Alternative Forms of Treatment for Lower Back Pain
If you have lower back pain and are frustrated with your current course of treatment, you might consider another opinion. Chiropractors can help lower back pain by loosening stiff muscles and joints, and have pretty good success at treating it. Physiatrists (sports and spine doctors) are also great options, and ones that I would work with all the time.
Either way, if you’re suffering lower back pain and your current treatment isn’t helping, get a second opinion. In order to effectively treat lower back pain, you must find out exactly what’s causing it. Don’t guess, and don’t give up! There is probably relief out there somewhere, you just have to find it.