Health, Fitness and Injury Management

Thoracic and Cervical Spine, and Bulging Discs: Part 2

Concerns about X-ray or MRI findings continued

thoracic painIn the previous article Dr. Buna talked about the normal incidence of bulging discs, torn discs and degenerative changes in the lumbar spine in relation to lower back pain. In this article he talks about the thoracic spine and cervical spine regions.

Thoracic spine - the state of aging joints

Dr. Michael Buna has read the results of MRI studies where the thoracic spine discs have been imaged and correlated this to the amount of back pain. Overall, when the MRIs looked at healthy adults with no history of upper or low back pain, these studies showed that 47% had disc degeneration! 53% had disc bulges! 58% had disc tears in their thoracic spine! That's a surprisingly high number given that 29% of these healthy adults had a disc bulge that was actually deforming and pressing on the spinal cord, BUT they did not even know about it!

What does this mean?  According to Michael, Your x-ray or MRI may show that you have a disc bulging, torn or degeneration in the joint. HOWEVER this may not be a cause for concern, given that these changes show up in people who are not in pain. 


Cervical Spine - your neck

cervical spine painHow about neck pain? "There are people that come to me because they are experiencing neck pain, and are convinced they have disc problems or arthritis. I tell them they could very well be correct." states Dr. Buna very matter of factly. However, the arthritis or disc bulging may not be related to their pain. That's a hard piece of information to swallow for many people. We seem to need a piece of physical evidence that we can point to and say "aha that's it!"

A recent study that Dr. Buna cites, looking at MRIs of health adults and seniors, found that 98% of all the men and women with no neck pain had evidence of "degenerative changes" in their cervical discs. A 10 year study compared the MRI's of healthy people to those with neck whiplash injuries. Immediately and 10 years later, both groups had similar MRIs with 3 of 4 individuals having neck disc bulges.

These findings support the idea that neck degeneration (arthritis) and disc bulges are part of the normal aging process and do not necessarily mean there is a problem, cause for alarm or that these changes are responsible for the pain.

As these changes are so widespread, neck arthritis or mild to moderate disc bulges cannot possibly be a reasonable explanation of your neck pain, or else 98% of people would have neck pain.

"Everyone needs to listen to their own body. Seek treatment when you experience pain, to ease the pain. It's as simple as that" a philosophy that Dr. Buna suggests for all his patients and follows himself. He keeps his body pain free by seeking regular chiropractic adjustments, rather than waiting for pain to knock on his door. But that's another discussion for another day.


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