According to many studies, up to 85% of people in the United States will suffer from low back pain. Low back pain is second only to upper respiratory infections (the common cold) as a reason for missed work time!
The bones (vertebra) that form the spine (backbone) are cushioned by small, round, flat discs. When these discs are damaged from an injury, normal wear and tear, or disease, they may bulge abnormally or break open. A herniated disc occurs when small tears form in the wall of an injured disc. The injury often compresses a nerve root, causing pain.
Herniated or bulging vertebral discs are common injuries of the neck and low back. These injuries may be asymptomatic (no symptoms) and are more prevalent as we age. According to a study in 2008 from the Cleveland Clinic, 25% of all asymptomatic adults have at least 1 herniated vertebral disc and as many as 60% with no back pain have degenerative changes in their spines.
If you have back pain and any of the following signs, you should be seen by a spine doctor for an evaluation.
Usually all that’s needed is a physical exam and medical history. X-Rays: Don’t detect this type of injury but can rule out tumor, broken bone, or alignment issues. Myelogram: Test can show pressure on spinal cord or nerves due to bulging discs. MRI: Test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body. A herniation may be seem on MRI.
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