Disc Injuries: Is Inflammation really the bad guy?

Disc Injuries: Is Inflammation really the bad guy?

Lumbar disc injuries affect around 10% of people in the world and are a major contributor to time off work. Unfortunately for that reason they are a common condition seen by our team of Chiropractors & Physiotherapists at Perth Allied Health Clinic

Disc injuries can be extremely painful with muscle spasm, inflammation, radicular (nerve) pain down the leg. And they can be extremely frustrating to manage as a patient and as a clinician.

A new study titled “The Inflammatory response in the regression of lumbar disc herniation” (2018) gives us some interesting points to understand when dealing with disc injuries:

  • First is the fact that the inflammation which occurs with disc injuries and that brings about the majority of our symptoms is actually absolutely necessary for proper disc healing.
  • It showed that larger disc herniations (which are associated with larger inflammatory responses) are actually more likely to regress/ or heal on their own and are more likely to heal faster than smaller disc herniations. Counterintuitive right? We would assume the larger the disc bulge – the worse the prognosis… Wrong! This is because the inflammation associated with that larger herniation facilitates the healing process and leads to more favourable outcomes.
  • That is why other modalities such as injections, which attempt to completely stop inflammation don’t actually provide great long-term outcomes because it halts the process of healing which a disc goes through in order to regain its structural integrity.

Here are some direct quotes from the study to really hammer home the point:

“it is clear the inflammatory response associated with disc injuries … is crucial to its spontaneous resorption”

“inflammation in this context is a good prognostic indicator and should not be halted”

“different forms of non-surgical/conservative treatments should be exhausted before considering surgery in acute stages of lumbar disc herniation”

This means inflammation is super important for disc healing and we need to be patient and realistic in our recovery times and let the body do what is does best! Adapt!

As always it is important to have a thorough physical assessment done by a university-trained Chiropractor or Physiotherapist in order to accurately diagnose your condition, and get you on the path to recovery as quickly as possible.

Leave a Reply