How BAD is my disc bulge? Am I STUCK with it? Will I NEED SURGERY?
Nearly everyday in our office one of our patients, new or old, will tell us with a dejected look on their that they have a disc “bulge,” sometimes they may call it a “slipped disk.” For many years we have believed that once a disc is bulging there isn’t much you can do without surgery. Unfortunately back surgeries, especially what is called an “open” surgery have not had the greatest success rates. As I was doing research for this blog I had hoped to find more solid numbers regarding the success rates. One study states that more than 90% of patient’s undergoing back surgery will again suffer from back pain, more than 20% will experience what is known as failed back surgery syndrome.
These less than desirable outcomes have caused many doctors to seek more conservative care options. These include laser, or non-invasive surgeries, physical therapies and CHIROPRACTIC! These alternatives are also helpful in reducing the amount of pain relievers, both prescription and over the counter that a patient may have to ingest. Unfortunately, the use of opioid pain relievers has become an epidemic in our nation, which makes any reduction in use a positive.
I want to address TWO MYTHS that are no longer supported by recent research.
Myth #1: A disc bulge is associated with excruciating pain and the inability to function. While this may in part be true, a recent review of the MRI’s of the Olympic athletes who competed in the 2016 summer games it was concluded that “a high number of the world’s premier athletes demonstrated moderate to severe spine disease … including moderate/severe degenerative disc changes with varying degrees of disc bulges and herniations.” So what does that mean for you? It means that even if you have a bulged disc you can still perform at a very high level. These people are the greatest athletes in the world and their spines are more than likely worse than yours.
Myth #2: A disc bulge CANNOT be repaired WITHOUT SURGERY. A study last year confirmed that disc reabsorption will take place in about 66% of cases. This was a preliminary study meta-analysis and systemic reviews of cohort studies, and is still requiring more research to learn more about it. This opens the doors to discuss more conservative treatment options.
Two things we now know:
1. A patient with a disc bulge can still perform at a high level, it reasonable to expect a patient to return to their usual activities without a lengthy delay.
2. A patient with a disc bulge is not an automatic candidate for surgery, in fact conservative care is preferred from a statistical stand point.
How we apply this information in our office:
If there are no indications of any conditions requiring emergency care it is appropriate to start with conservative care. In addition we seek to find ways to manage the disc condition while rehabbing the muscles in the region to allow the patient to return to their normal activities as soon as possible. We know that it is likely with this type of care the patients disc herniation and back pain will resolve and the patient will avoid costly and more risky surgical options.
**DISCLAIMER** There are times where surgery is indicated to prevent permanent nerve damage. If you experience loss of bowel or bladder control you should seek immediate emergency care, as this is an indication of a more severe condition. This blog is not meant to replace any medical advice and you should still absolutely consult with your doctor before making any decisions regarding care. The purpose of the blog is to bring some of the latest research to your attention so that you are better prepared. **Disclaimer**
Life Aligned Chiropractic is your choice for your families chiropractic needs. They serve the southeast valley including Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Gilbert, Mesa and Apache Junction. There family chiropractic office also offers therapy and rehab in addition to chiropractic care for your injuries. They accept most major insurance plans, including auto insurance for the those involved in a car accident. They work with personal injury attorney to provide your care with little to no out of pocket costs to the patient. Car accidents are very stressful so don't forget to take care of your health following an accident. If you are a resident of Queen Creek or the local area please give us a call.