Low Back Pain: Signs & Symptoms of a Bad Disc

Spinal discLow back pain from a bad disc is very common. By the age of 30, discs often begin to show signs of wear. By age 40 disc pain is normal. 

The human body was initially built to last roughly 40 to 50 years.   Up until about the mid 1800’s, most people would die by this age due to:

  • Trauma
  • Infections
  • Disease
  • Heart problems

Since that time, science and medicine has developed tremendously, and we have improved our longevity well into the 70’s and 80’s for many people.  The problem as we live longer, is that we are out living the natural life expectancy and durability of many of our body parts.  We are wearing out the spine, the disks, bones, joints and sometimes the nerves.  As we age, our body parts age, become damaged, and cause us pain.

Signs you have a Bad Disc in your Back

The first sign that you have a bad back disc is often radicular pain – that is pain that starts in the back and radiates into the buttock or leg, either one or both sides.  Sometimes it starts after moving wrong, bending and twisting, or lifting something too heavy.  People who suffer from this often don’t know exactly what happened. They simply notice annoying, ongoing pain from the back into the leg.

Having low back pain and a bad disk is not unusual.  A bad disk does not mean that you need surgery.  However, having ongoing back pain means that you need to do more maintenance to keep going. Just like having an older car, an aging body needs more work on a regular basis to keep running.  If you ignore everything, it will stop working well. But unlike an old car, you cannot just go to the local mechanic to keep things running.  To keep the back well tuned, you need the advice of an expert and you need to invest in your own health.

Spinal Disc Treatment Options

Most back disc problems can be treated conservatively, without surgery. Treatment ranges from simple to aggressive based on what works and what is wrong.  Surgical treatment should be reserved mostly for discs causing neurologic damage including weak muscles in the legs and loss of control of the bowel or bladder.  This is rare though – less than 2% of all disk problems need surgery.

If the low back pain is radicular and has not responded to simple treatment in 4-6 weeks, it is time to find a Physical Medicine doctor who specializes in pain.  These are experts in diagnosis and treatment of these problems.  They can start simple, from medications and therapy, and move to the most complex solutions if necessary.  Interventionalists are pain doctors who may also do injections to diagnosis specific problems and perform complex procedures that treat the pain without surgery.   Often these doctors can determine if the pain may be coming from several different sources, and how to treat each of the specific problems so that life is not a pain.

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Thomas Cohn, MD

Interventional pain doctor helping Minnesotans manage back, neck, foot, and other pain. Board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation with additional board-certification in pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP) and the American Board of Pain Medicine (ABPM).