Diagnosed herniated disc pain can be a big problem for many patients with severe back or neck symptoms. The fact that the pain might not even be caused by the herniated disc is even worse. Doctors are sharply divided on the facts as to how much pain is produced by a herniated disc and how long the suffering should last. This should not be an overly subjective topic, since scientific research demonstrates some virtual absolutes which are objective facts.
First, the incidence of herniated discs in no way correlates to the expression of back or neck pain. Next, most herniations will produce no symptoms whatsoever. Finally, doctors have been advised by major medical groups to not implicate disc herniations as the source of pain unless there is definitive evidence to the contrary. So, now, being better prepared, let’s talk more about disc pain.
This dialog explores how and how often herniated discs can cause pain, as well as provides clarification of many myths regarding herniated disc pain.
Does a herniated disc produce pain? That is the key question.
The answer is simple… Yes and no.
A herniated disc that is produced due to a sudden back injury is almost always bound to be painful. Any force which can cause a disc to bulge will affect the entire spinal anatomy. Pain may not be generated by the disc bulging, but may be expressed nonetheless from overall trauma.
Meanwhile, herniated discs that are produced by a degenerative process, such as disc desiccation, are much less likely to cause acute pain. Many of these disc herniations go unnoticed for years and never cause symptoms.
Therefore, it is easy to conclude that it is the trauma of the injury that causes the pain, not the herniated disc itself. However, this is still an incomplete picture of disc pain.
Discs will bulge in a specific direction. The disc can herniate towards the spinal cord or away from it. Most discs bulge inwards, towards the spinal cord and nerves. It can be a central disc herniation, which means the disc bulges directly in the middle. This pattern will usually put the greatest pressure into the spinal canal, but not necessarily on any spinal nerve roots. Herniations which affect the spinal canal can be described as having a mass effect on, impinging on, effacing, displacing or compressing any of the neurological structures therein.
If a central or paracentral herniation is experienced along with other canal narrowing components, central spinal stenosis may result.
The disc can also bulge towards one side or the other. These right or left side herniations are often blamed for causing sciatica, pinched nerves or other neurological symptoms.
This has been the question that seems to defy logic. Most doctors believe that disc pain will usually resolve itself within 2 to 8 weeks. Some doctors believe that herniated discs can cause pain for months, years or even decades. A few doctors believe that herniated discs do not cause any pain at all. It is a diagnosis that certainly means different things to different people.
Research evidence seems to correlate with the truth that most disc abnormalities do not cause any pain, even when pain is present. In these cases, the discs can not be responsible due to many case-specific factors and are judged to be incidental diagnostic findings to the clinical complaint.
The expression of pain seems to depend greatly on the pattern of the disc bulge and the effects the disc might be having on surrounding nerve tissue. It is certainly possible for a recently injured disc to be very uncomfortable if it affects a nerve structure. It is also possible for the disc material to cause severe neurological effects if it compresses a spinal nerve or the spinal cord. However, these instances of true nerve compression are the exception, not the rule.
Just because a disc has herniated does not mean that it will cause any ongoing pain or neurological symptoms. Statistically, the vast majority of all disc problems are completely asymptomatic. It is also highly unlikely that real disc-related pain will last more than a few weeks. It is even more unlikely that the condition will resist all attempts at successful treatment.
Ok, so most disc injuries are not painful or cause pain which will end shortly. Why do so many patients have unresolved disc pain that goes on for years? The answer, once again, is simple: They don't
These unfortunate patients may have been victims of misdiagnosed back pain. Sure, they might have a herniated disc, but that condition is not truly causing the pain. It is merely a scapegoat on which the pain is unjustly being blamed. The real cause of the pain is either some other physical problem or a psychosomatic causation.
I am currently aware of 12 herniated discs in my spine. For the majority of time I have suffered with back pain, it was blamed on 2 herniations in my lumbar spine. Later, it turns out that I have 10 more herniated discs in my neck and upper back and the worst of them in the middle of my cervical spine. One of these is truly terrifying in its appearance.
I tried so many treatments over the years for disc pain, but never found relief. I know that many of you are in the exact same predicament that I am in. You have tried all the medical treatments, as well as the alternative approaches to finding back pain relief. You still have your pain. Actually, your pain has gotten worse. How do I know? I am right there with you. I know you. I know your pain.
You have to step back and ask yourself: If all my doctors know so much about my diagnosis, how come they can’t cure me? Think about that question carefully. The answer to that question is the first step to finding a cure for your suffering.