Inquiring about their herniated disc prognosis is one of the possible questions many patients ask their care providers once they have been diagnosed with an intervertebral disc condition. Other patients want to know the prognosis for a variety of different treatment modalities, in order to help them to select the one which will work best for their needs.
Doctors might handle these queries in many ways, from being completely truthful to taking an opportunistic stance for some easy money. In other cases, patients have a difficult time getting any type of straight forward or understandable answer at all. Always make sure you understand your diagnosis and the prognosis for your future before even thinking about a particular path to treatment.
This essay provides some honest answers on how herniated discs and their common treatments might affect life over time.
A good doctor will always wait until all the evidence is in before making any diagnostic pronouncement. Once the imaging studies have been combined with the results of a physical exam and compared against the symptoms experienced, a care provider will have enough information to reach a valid diagnostic conclusion regarding most disc issues. If more evidence is needed, there is nothing wrong with holding off judgment until a time comes when a conclusion can be reached.
It is vital for doctors to tell their patients the real herniated disc facts, not frighten them with antiquated medical mythology. Patients should be informed as to the ultra common nature of bulging discs and the universality of degenerative disc disease. They should also be told that most of these spinal disc issues are not problematic or symptomatic in any way and that most neck and back pain is coincidental to any herniated disc found.
Of course, this is not an absolute, as some disc concerns can be nightmarish. However, these represent the minority, not the general rule.
I would love to get the above objective and honest prognosis from a doctor, but unfortunately, it was not my experience.
Doctors are mostly mired down in ridiculous theories about the exclusively structural nature of symptoms, even when research has conclusively shown little or no relationship between the most commonly diagnosed disc issues and the incidence of chronic back pain.
Almost all of my early doctors played up the diagnostic nocebo effect, making it seem like a huge deal that I had 2 lumbar herniated discs and some low back deterioration. Not one ever told me how common these are and many did all in their power to get me to acquiesce to whatever treatment or surgical option they were suggesting.
I received threats, misinformation and even anger at my skepticism.
Looking back, it is no surprise that I am so passionate about trying to get through to people about the realities of herniated discs. It is vital to learn all you can and take part in your own care in order to achieve the best results. This has been proven time and time again.
I sincerely recommend you do not rely exclusively on any single source when learning about your herniated disc condition. Instead, do the research yourself and put together a comprehensive picture which makes sense, given the newest clinical studies and at least a few professional diagnostic opinions.
Do not discount the possibility that a care provider might be creating a dismal picture simply for the sake of making money. It does happen. Doctors are business people. They make money by providing care. If they are specialists, such as surgeons, do not be surprised if they recommend their particular form of treatment or surgery. Come on people, wake up!
This is why a second or third opinion is always a good idea and open discussions with your physicians are encouraged.
I was threatened with all the usual consequences, foretold by several noted doctors: paralysis, nerve damage, disability and imminent surgery. I have heard them all. These dire predictions came over 25 years ago and none have come to pass!
I sincerely hope that these doctors get a karmic come-uppance at some point. It is long overdue. For all you doctors who do your best to be objective, factual and fair, you are a credit to your profession. To those who prey on the exploitable masses of frightened and confused patients with basically nothing wrong with them, I think you already know what I think about you.
The break down for herniated disc prognosis is not good. I will let some startling statistics speak for themselves:
Patients who seek care have a greater chance for developing chronic pain than those who do not seek any care. This is true regardless of which variety of care is selected.
Chronic pain, related to disc pathologies, which lasts more than a year, has a better chance of remaining for life than ever completely resolving.
Finally, disc surgery demonstrates the worst long term results due to iatrogenic error, misdiagnosis, complications and the common incidence of re-herniation.