Disc Degeneration, bulging and why you shouldn’t always worry about your scan results.
The recurring and chronic nature of back pain, even when no further complications like neurological issues arise, makes it highly disruptive for day to day activities and if you have been suffering for weeks, months or even years, you have probably ended up pushing your GP for further investigations and scans. As we mentioned last week (Click here to view last weeks blog) most people will have non-specific back pain, which means that no structural changes have been detected, but what about if your scan showed ‘something’?
Well, most changes visible in scans are non-causative, meaning that they are not the cause of your pain. They are normal in the aging process just like wrinkles and grey hair. Below are some numbers from a recent literature review.
Remember, these are figures of asymptomatic individuals. The vast majority of us will have both disc degeneration and bulging at some point in our lives, almost all of us will past 70 years old!
So, what if your scan showed some of the above? Most of the time, these won’t be the root cause of your pain and this is what we try to teach our patients. We all tend to be really scared when it comes to the spine and reading a report that is showing ‘stuff’ about our back not being 100% perfect. This pushes many people towards inactivity and fear of certain movements. But we are made to move! And most back pain will actually resolve with movement and appropriate loading.
As therapists, we will listen to you and your symptoms rather than just looking at your scans. Then we’ll try to understand what is really going on and how well you can control your pelvic movements, and which muscles your body is using to stabilise your spine. Often times, we see poor patterns in breathing as core recruitment that if addressed can greatly lower your pain.
When is a scan useful?
Of course, no two people are the same and there are cases when scans are helpful and these are generally linked to neurological symptoms. It’s important to understand what is exactly going on in your body and take the right steps for your recovery.