The Failed Disc Syndrome


You Were Told It Was A Disc Herniation, But It Wasn't!

By Dr. Rick Morris

Many of us have discs that have worn a bit too much, bulged and possibly even herniated. They usually hurt for a few weeks then get better with stretching, chiropractic or physical therapy.

There are books like, "Mind Over Back Pain", telling us to just ignore our back problems. This school of thought believes the fear of our back pain prevents us from returning to normal movements and therefore complete healing. While this works for a few, others are discouraged and even hurt.

Our doctors tell us we have a disc injury (eg a herniation or bulge) and recommend usual therapies, but in some cases, it doesn’t work. The past treatments that used to work, no longer do. We get frustrated, anxious and even depressed. Now doctors are using the “S word”: Surgery. Unfortunately research often shows poor long-term results. So, what should we do?

You May Not Have A Disc Bulge or Herniation, But Rather A Failed Disc Syndrome

As we age, our discs may become less strong, elastic, and thick as they once were. Our backs get sore more easily and respond well to chiropractic and physical therapy. But will have injured discs that never completely heal; in fact, they may continue to worsen.

This MRI shows poor blood supply to the lowest disc, and therefore appears darker compared to the ones above it.

Bulged and herniated discs with poor blood supply often fail to heal with usual treatment. We call this a Failed Disc Syndrome.

Our spine center was the first to write and teach doctors about the Failed Disc Syndrome. The term stated the obvious: This group of patients, with disc disorders, did not heal like the others. We’ve studied, published research and lectured on this topic, and here are a few things we’ve learned:

  1. Normal disc bulges and herniations are fairly common and heal with conservative care (chiropractic, physical therapy, rest).
  2. Typically these patients demonstrated a lack of blood supply to the damaged discs, which was visible on a specific type of MRI, called a STIR image.
  3. This lack of blood supply was probably caused by the restriction of normal joint movement at the level of the injured disc.
  4. Restoring the normal movement of these damaged joints is required to allow the blood supply and, therefore, proper healing to resume.
  5. Once the disc has significantly improved, proper motion must be maintained to prevent it from reoccurring.

What Causes The Lack Of Proper Joint Movement and Blood Supply In The First Place?

Repetitive injuries, spinal abnormalities (often congenital), leg length discrepancy and other often undiagnosed structural faults can cause abnormal spinal movement that lead to the initial disc damage. But, the body is smart and creates muscular spasms to help protect the injured disc. Unfortunately, that causes even more joint restriction, which decreases the blood supply that can result in a Failed Disc Syndrome. It’s similar to the damage sustained to a skyscraper built on a faulty foundation. The building would have increased wear and tear and require greater need for structural support. In other words, it wouldn’t last as long.

The Spinal Stenosis and Disc Center was the first to write about this condition and leads the orthopedic field in correcting Failed Disc Syndromes. We have a 4-5 month program designed to restore proper spinal alignment, bring back the spinal circulation and finally create disc healing when other treatments have failed.

Virtually all of our patients have been unsuccessfully treated by multiple doctors and clinics before coming to our spine center. If this sounds like what you’ve been experiencing, please schedule an appointment with us right away and call us for further information at 310-451-5851.

For Further Information

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*Please see the research. Of course individual results may vary.

Spinal Stenosis and Disc Center, Inc.
2428 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 305
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Phone: 310-451-5851
Fax: 310-458-0051
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