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Startling Scientific Data Against Back Surgery

April 21, 2022

Watch the video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/6PQmblgv62w

In this blog post, we’re going to discuss some scientific studies regarding treatment for disc herniations, also called disc bulges.

Disc Herniations or Bulging Discs

Disc herniations (or disc bulges) are a main category of changes seen in the spine. In 2017, a research study by Medicare looked at a half a million patients who had disc herniations and physical therapy. The study found that in most cases, having physical therapy for a disc herniation saved the patient (and Medicare) money.

The study found that if physical therapy visits were increased, patient care costs were reduced by 32% overall showing that physical therapy helps the patient relieve pain as well as save money. If physical therapy was performed first, instead of injections, costs were reduced by 19%. If patients received physical therapy within the first 15 days of the onset of back pain, there was a 27% cost savings. But the biggest savings was when physical therapy was performed first instead of surgery, which saved patients a whopping 75%.

It’s important to realize that the cost savings in the study reflects an equal or greater amount of pain relief for the patient.  The earlier a patient receives physical therapy, the better the patient does and the better the cost reduction.

A Bulging Disc does NOT Equal Pain

A different study, called the Asymptomatic Imaging Study looked at tens of thousands of people who had MRI’s or X-rays of their backs. These people, ranging in age from 20 - 80 reported that they were not experiencing any pain, they were asymptomatic.  60-85% of the imaging (MRI or x-ray) for those 60 and over showed the patient had a disc bulge, the percentage of disc bulges rising with age.  The percentage for disc degeneration was even higher for this group. 88% and higher of these painless people showed disc degeneration. All this means that changes in your spine do not equal back pain.

Evidence Against Back Surgery

Despite this evidence back surgeries are on the rise, and so are the complications and risks. We encourage you, if you’ve had an image showing disc changes, or a diagnosis of a bulging disc, or disc herniation, and you’re having back pain to consult a licensed physical therapist first. We know the root causes of your pain (usually not a bulging disc) and can get you on the road to pain-free living quickly. Physical Therapy is almost always the very best solution to your pain problems.


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