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Andy asked...

My back 'went/popped'

I had microdiscectomy in Dec 2012, seemed to recover ok, few stiff back but my back never "went/popped" like it used to - good. However 2 weeks ago my back "went/popped" whilst on holiday. Wasn't doing anything strenuous, or bending. I was in bed for a few days until pain killers/anti-inflammatorys kicked in. Then eventually loosened up a bit. I'm now sort of back to where I am, general stiffness but recovering. I'm really disappointed that my back "went/popped". Should I get a follow up appointment and get another MRI to check, or just put it down as a one off?

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The answer

I’m delighted that you made a good recovery following your microdiscectomy. I’m assuming you only had a procedure on one vertebra. It’s entirely possible that the problem you had was a different vertebra. Back pain is extremely common and in the vast majority of cases settles down within about 6 weeks. It’s more commonly due to strain of the muscles or ligaments that support the spine. Alternatively, it can be due to a minor problem with a facet joint – one of the small joints that connect the spines of the vertebrae (rather than the discs, which are between the bodies of the vertebrae). The fact that it settled within a few days makes it much less likely that it was a recurrence of the disc prolapse which I assume you suffered if you needed a microdiscectomy. I’m also assuming that you didn’t have any symptoms such as numbness, tingling or weakness in your legs, bladder or bowel disturbance or numbness around your bottom.

Low back pain which isn’t connected with any other symptoms and settles on its own within a few days or weeks is called non-specific, or simple, low back pain. It’s common, it’s not serious and it doesn’t mean that you are having problems with a different disc or with the one you had operated on. I would suggest that if your symptoms have settled you should relax but continue to be aware of protecting your back.

Answered by Dr Sarah Jarvis.


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