Herniated disc suffering is the worst nightmare come true for untold numbers of patients afflicted by chronic back or neck pain symptoms. A herniated disc is actually a very common and rarely problematic occurrence in the spine, but if you ask the average patient what they think of a herniation, they will be sure to tell you it is Hell on Earth.
This article will focus on the actual physical torture endured by hundreds of millions of people worldwide who have been diagnosed with pathological intervertebral conditions. We will take an in-depth look at the human cost of disc pain and help to raise public awareness about how many back and neck pain sufferers are mismanaged in the healthcare system.
I started to experience severe back pain at the age of 16. I was not diagnosed with herniated discs right away. This took until I was in my early 20s. I remember injuring my back in the martial arts around this time and felt a sharp and burning pain in my lumbar spine. After this occurrence, an MRI confirmed 2 herniated discs at L4/L5 and L5/S1.
The acute pain lasted for some time, but eventually changed and became more of a chronic concern. After the resolution of that painful episode, I went back to suffering from the same old acute flare ups of low back pain as I had before. It was unpredictable and often sprang up at the worst times.
Of course, due to the nocebo effect of the diagnostic process, my pain became steadily worse. Now, I had an even more significant diagnostic conclusion on which to blame my pain. Instead of just degenerative disc disease, now I had 2 bulging discs. Fast forward 30+ years and I find myself demonstrating a grand total of 12 herniated discs, including 6 cervical, 4 thoracic and 2 lumbar.
You have sent me tens of thousands of personal stories over the years. I read each and always integrate your experiences into the articles on this site. Most patients fit into one of 2 categories. There are those with a long history of idiopathic back pain who are eventually diagnosed with a herniated disc and those who suddenly injure their backs and are diagnosed with a acute bulging disc immediately. Either way, once the condition has been confirmed, pain typically gets worse and becomes chronic.
After the diagnosis, patients have a real reason to be scared and now live every day in fear of a recurrence of the dreaded pain. All this fear and anxiety creates a tremendous amount of internal tension, which in turn intensifies and perpetuates the pain condition far into the patient’s future.
Do you have a herniated disc which has not responded to treatment?
Has your pain changed in location, symptom or severity?
Are you afraid of "throwing your back out"?
Has your pain become chronic when originally it was more episodic?
I bet the answer to many or all of these questions is yes. These seem to be nearly universal criteria for lasting disc pain issues.
The facts about herniated discs are simple and easy to understand. They make it clear that herniated discs due to normal spinal degeneration are rarely painful at all and become a problem mostly through the diagnostic nocebo effect or some other psychogenic causation.
The facts also tell us that herniated discs due to traumatic injury can be painful for a time, but almost never cause long-term symptoms, unless verified nerve compression is occurring. Once again, the pain sometimes continues as a direct result of either the diagnostic nocebo effect or some psychosomatic perpetuation process.
Doctors rarely mention that most herniations are nothing to fear. Doctors may even go so far as to intensify fear by propagating myths about disc conditions, just for the sake of making money from unneeded treatment or surgery.
The point to be made is simple. The medical system concentrates on physical pain. It treats it and obsesses over it, forcing patients to do the same. Rarely are the emotional consequences and contributors to chronic suffering even discussed at all.
Patients must take the time and effort to get in touch with their emotions and learn who their chronic pain is truly a mindbody condition. The mind may well be causing or contributing to the pain, directly or through emotional overlay, while the pain certainly can have very damaging effects on the psychological self. It is no surprise that so many patients with chronic pain suffer depression and some even go so far as to attempt or succeed in suicide.