The status quo with regards to back pain and specifically lumbar spine disc issues, is that without surgery, they wont heal.

Most feel like once sciatica starts as a result of a disc pathology, then it’s essentially a death sentence and they will have to suffer the effects for the rest of their lives.

Now wait a minute…read this article (well only if you have specific access through your university or are prepared to pay for it….don’t get us started) and question what you’ve heard!!

This article by Chiu C. (2014) in Clinical Rehabilitation looked into the response of discs with varying degrees of pathology over time, in patients who undertook conservative management (non surgical).

The findings are staggering…

The rate of spontaneous regression (reduction) of a herniated disc was found to be:

96% for disc sequestration

70% for disc extrusion

41% for disc protrusion

13% for disc bulging

Complete resolution occurred in 43% of sequestrations and 15% of extrusions. Most regression occurs within the first year and could happen as early as 2-3 months.

Now, many of you may be wondering what all these words mean. So for those with a thirst for knowledge, here is an explanation –

Disc sequestration – a type of spinal disc herniation. It can occur in any part of the spine, including the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), and lumbar (lower back) region. Sequestration occurs when part of a the disc is detached and migrates away from the main part of the disc.

Disc extrusion – a type of spinal disc herniation that occurs when a portion of the disc nucleus (the gel-like center of the disc) is forced out of the annulus (the outer layer of the disc) and into the spinal canal. This can put pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves and lead to symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs.

Disc protrusion – a type of spinal disc herniation that occurs when a portion of the disc nucleus (the gel-like center of the disc) bulges out of the annulus (the outer layer of the disc) but does not completely breach the annulus.

Disc bulging – a condition in which the outer layer of the spinal disc (the annulus) bulges or extends beyond its normal confines, but does not completely breach the annulus. Unlike a herniated disc, where the inner gel-like material of the disc extrudes through the annulus, a bulging disc does not result in the disc material moving outside the normal confines of the disc.

Now back to the practical implications of this study and what it means to us all.

Essentially the biggest takeaway has to be that although it may feel like the only option when you’re in pain, being patient and giving your disc some time to recover may help you to avoid surgery.

Now, with the pressures we’re seeing in the NHS, surgery may not be an option you are provided with very soon, but at least now you can have some hope that with time, the issue may well resolve of its own accord.

On important thing to remember is whenever we have pain for sustained periods of time, this will lead to a number of issues. We most likely will develop compensatory movements that have assisted in reducing the pain and loss of function in the short term, but actually cause us more issues in the long term. We will also have a certain amount of muscle wastage (atrophy) in certain areas, which may not cause any immediate issues once the pain has subsided, but if left unaddressed it is likely that at some point it will lead to other issues.

The good thing is, all of the above is easily address with physiotherapy.

So, if you are currently suffering with lower back pain, give us a call and we will help you naviaget back to full health and kick that can into another postcode!

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