So. You’ve just been told you have a disc bulge and it’s a big one. Or you’ve heard other words like herniation, protrusion, extrusion or sequestration. You’ve heard all sorts of things about them and it doesn’t sound good. In fact, your uncle/grandma/friend had one and had lots of trouble with it. But what does it mean for you? Will you need surgery? Will it just go away? Are you going to be stuck with this for life? Or could something more conservative like physiotherapy or exercise physiology help? Surely physio or exercise couldn’t help with the really big bulges?
The answers to the above questions may surprise you. Whilst a disc bulge can be debilitating and painful recent studies suggest that they may be more manageable than previously thought. In a recently published study, they found that there is no statistical association between the size of a lumbar disc herniation and the likelihood that a you will fail conservative treatment and ultimately require surgery.) On top of this they found that only 8.7% of patients required surgery at all as conservative treatment is able to get the job done in the big majority of folks. In simple terms the size of the bulge shouldn’t influence the decision to have surgery. In fact, you’d be better served by at least giving something like physiotherapy or exercise physiology a go before considering surgery. According the above odds, it’s likely that’s all you’ll have to do!
Add to this the astonishing fact that the more severe a disc bulge is, the more likely it is to spontaneously shrink. Yep, you read that right! Your body is so clever, it can recover from even the most serious of disc injuries. The above study even went as far as to suggest that ‘spontaneous regression of herniated disc tissue can occur, and can completely resolve after conservative treatment.’
There are of course times when a disc bulge warrants surgery and this is a discussion between you and your specialist or GP but it seems that in the vast majority of cases your body is super capable of healing especially under the guidance of suitably trained allied health professionals like the ones we have here at Vibe!