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18 Months Back Disc Pain - How Much Longer?


I have been having some severe localized low back pain from slightly bulging discs at L4/5 and L5/S1 for a year and a half now. The pain just does not diminish. Chiropractic, physical therapy, and steroid injection have all failed to improve the pain.

I cannot sit for more than 10-20 minutes, so my social life is pretty restricted (no movies, restaurants, no long drives, no dating or sex, etc.) and I cannot lie down without painkillers, especially not on my side.

I am 44 but in great physical shape otherwise (going by the compliments I receive from people) - I kind of think that might be part of the problem, since I look good doctors don't really believe that I could be in so much pain.

Has anybody else here recovered from long-standing back pain? I really just need to know if there is light at the end of the tunnel.


Thread just caught my eye, cuz I'm doing my Ph.D with a focus on intervertebral disc repair.

I assume you have gotten MRIs and/or CTs performed. Curious as to what you mean by a slight bulge. Seems like even if the bulge is slight, the disc is still impinging on a nerve. Might want a second opinion from a spine specialist to see if that disc needs to be resected. But I think, given all that you have tried, it is rare the pain will just go away.

I'm not saying you have to have the disc completely removed, but MRIs and CTs at that transition from lumbar to sacral can be dicey to read for a non-specialist.

Good Luck!


I previously posted photos of my MRI here: https://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/music_movies_girls_life/can_anyone_read_a_spine_mri_

The latest MRI report was from Oct 09 and the damage seemed minor:

Findings: (Oct 09)

Vertebral height and vertebral alignment are normal. There is moderate L4-5 disc space narrowing and disc dessication. There is L5-S1 disc dessication. The upper lumbar discs are well hydrated,. The dimensions of the bony spinal canal are adequate. The conus medullaris terminates in normal position.

The L1-2 through L3-4 discs are normal. There is no annular bulge and no focal disc protrusion. There is no central canal or foraminal stenosis.

When compared with the previous study of [Jun 09] the previously described small left lateral disc protrusion abutting the L4 nerve root is partially resolved. Mass effect is predominantly seen in the left inferolateral foraminal recess with a patent L4-5 neural foramen.

There is a minor central posterior bulge of the L5-S1 disc, aslso partially resolved from the prior study. There is no new disc protrusion. There is no central canal or foraminal stenosis.


  1. Small left lateral L4-5 disc protrusion, partially resolved from prior study of [Jun 09]
  2. Minor central disc bulge at L5-S1, also improved from the prior study.


Sorry, not a doctor yet. Like BBB pointed out, the lack of fluid in the nucleus pulposus tells me something is wrong, I just don't know what.

Not skilled enough to make any conjectures about the axial view, though again, a specialist might be able to see something I can't with the full films.