When you ask most people to describe the diagnosis for their lower back pain, a lot of people would say disc herniation. However, when we look at the number of patients we see, disc herniation is a much less frequent cause compared to the majority of people who present with lower back pain.
The herniated disc is when the very strong outer layer of the disc starts wearing away and eventually tears, allowing the more gelatinous substance to seep out. The tearing of the outer surface, the annulus, is painful in itself, but the real problem is when the disc material that comes out, starts pressing against the nerve.
Causes for disc herniations are usually related to long-term wear and tear, rather than one specific injury or incident. Poor posture and bad body mechanics are one of the biggest culprits here, too, which results in repetitive pressure and forces on the disc material.
Disc bulges are when the outer disc material does not completely tear. This diagnosis is often not even the cause of a person's symptoms. Many people have disc bulges and no symptoms at all. In fact, there was a study* in the early 2000’s that on a group of individuals who had MRIs, 87.6% of people had disc bulges but were asymptomatic, meaning the bulges were not causing pain.
To properly diagnose the cause of your back pain, it is best to have an evaluation with a physical therapist. He or she can evaluate your posture, joint motion, strength and flexibility along with your health history, current symptoms, and any aggravating factors. To schedule an evaluation with our office, please call 541-505-8180.
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