Spinal Disc Problems

Patients whose MRI’s show spinal disk irregularities often ask me if they will need surgery. Surgery isn’t the first thing you do because an MRI shows a disk bulge. When it is it is often the last option.  Ernst, Stadnik, Peeters, Breucg and Osteaux (2005) reported that 73 percent of 33 subjects without any symptoms at all had cervical disk bulges revealed by an MRI.  Fifty percent of subjects had disk protrusions (Stadnik et al. 2005). Stadncik et al. (1998) found that 81 percent of 33 subjects without symptoms had lumbar disk bulges. Thirty-three percent had protrusions Stannik et al, 1998).  Brinjiki et al. (2015) reviewed 33 studies of MRI images of subjects without pain or paresthesias. They concluded that spinal disk degeneration was frequent in asymptomatic people and that frequency increased with age (Brinjiki et al.).

These studies demonstrate that the causes of spinal pain in people also who had MRI’s showing spinal disk abnormalities may not be the spinal disks. Consequently, spinal surgery may not help.  MDT is a kind of physical therapy that is very effective for spinal pain and paresthesia’s. You can find more about MDT on THE website https://mckenzieinstitute.org/patients/what-is-the-mckenzie-method/ You can also read about it on this website, activespineptnc.com, under the specialties tab.


Brinjikji, W., Luetmer, P. H., Comstock, B., Bresnahan, B. W., Chen, L. E., Deyo, R. A., Halabi, S., Turner, J. A., Avins, A. L., James, K., Wald, J. T., Kallmes, D. F., & Jarvik, J. G. (2015). Systematic literature review of imaging features of spinal degeneration in asymptomatic populations. AJNR. American journal of neuroradiology36(4), 811–816. https://doi.org/10.3174/ajnr.A4173

Ernst, C. W., Stadnik, T. W., Peeters, E., Breucq, C., & Osteaux, M. J. (2005). Prevalence of annular tears and disc herniations on MR images of the cervical spine in symptom free volunteers. European journal of radiology55(3), 409–414.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejrad.2004.11.003

Stadnik, T. W., Lee, R. R., Coen, H. L., Neirynck, E. C., Buisseret, T. S., & Osteaux, M. J. (1998). Annular tears and disk herniation: prevalence and contrast enhancement on MR images in the absence of low back pain or sciatica. Radiology206(1), 49–55.