Mowbray Physiotherapy Services

Centre for Musculoskeletal and Sports Injuries


Research update about MRI findings for disc problem and its association with low back pain

Posted on 3 April, 2015 at 7:00

Low back pain (LBP) is a very common but largely self-limiting condition. The problem arises however, when LBP disorders do not resolve beyond normal expected tissue healing time and become chronic. Eighty five percent of chronic low back pain (CLBP) disorders have no known diagnosis leading to a classification of ‘non-specific CLBP’ that leaves a diagnostic and management vacuum. Even when a specific radiological diagnosis such as disc bulges, disc protrusion or a ‘slipped disc’ is reached the underlying pain mechanism cannot always be assumed. It is now widely accepted that CLBP disorders are multi-factorial in nature.


Degenerative changes in the inter vertebral discs are commonly found in spine imaging but often occur in pain-free individuals as well as those with back pain. Imaging findings of spine degeneration are present in high proportions of asymptomatic individuals, increasing with age. Many imaging-based degenerative features are likely part of normal aging and unassociated with pain. These imaging findings must be interpreted in the context of the patient's clinical condition. Disc bulges are common and poorly correlates with back pain.

Recent Systematic review by Brinikji et al, 2014 and Published in American Journal of Neuroradiology revealed that the prevalence of disk degeneration in asymptomatic individuals increased from 37% of 20-year-old individuals to 96% of 80-year-old individuals. Disk bulge prevalence increased from 30% of those 20 years of age to 84% of those 80 years of age. Disk protrusion prevalence increased from 29% of those 20 years of age to 43% of those 80 years of age. The prevalence of annular fissure increased from 19% of those 20 years of age to 29% of those 80 years of age.

So, if your MRI shows disc bulge or some one told you that you have a slipped disc, not necessary it is symptomatic or painful as it is common finding even in the asymptomatic population. Just Cheer up and Call us for an appointment to find out the cause of your back pain.



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