You’re not as broken as your scan suggests

03 May, 2018

So you’ve hurt your lower back and the doctor advised to get an MRI or CT scan which has shown a disc bulge or herniation. These words induce fear and pain in every person that suffers from back pain as it was once thought that a bulging or herniated disc was the primary cause of lower back pain and a lifelong injury.

However, recent research performed MRI and CT scan on people WITHOUT lower back pain which found some surprising results. 30-37% of 20 year olds and 60-80% of 50 year olds had either disc degeneration or disc bulge findings on their scans. The researchers concluded that a majority of these findings can be attributed to a normal part of the aging process and should not always be correlated to lower back pain symptoms.

Furthermore, researchers investigated the incidence of spontaneous resorption of lumbar disc herniation by examining patients with confirmed disc herniation on MRI and followed up with another scan 12 months later which found 66% had demonstrated healing in those that chose conservative treatment such as physiotherapy.

So why is this relevant to you and your lower back pain?

  1. Even those without lower back pain show evidence of disc degeneration or herniation, yet have NO SYMPTOMS.
  2. You’re not as broken as you think – chances are your injured disc will heal with conservative treatment.

At HealthSpace Clinics we treat the man (or woman), not the scan! If you’re suffering from lower back pain it is important to get a thorough assessment by a Physiotherapist to find the root cause of your pain so that you can begin treatment and get back to doing what you enjoy without pain.

Below are links to the studies referenced in this blog. If you have any questions, or are suffering from lower back pain please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Zab Azulay is a physiotherapist at the Kingsford and Kings Cross clinics. To make a booking, call 8354 1534.

  1. Steele, J. et al. (2015). Can specific loading through exercise impart healing or regeneration of the intervertebral disc?
  2. Zhong, M. et al. (2017). Indicence of spontaneous resorption of lumbar disc herniation: A meta-analysis.
  3. Chiu, C. et al. (2015). The probability of spontaneous regression of lumbar herniated disc: A systematic review.
  4. Brinkiki, W. et al. (2014). Systematic literature review of imaging features of spinal degeneration in asymptomatic populations.