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Stupid ? Can you feel a bulging disc?

knoxtnhornkknoxtnhorn Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:54 AM in Lower Back Pain
Actually, I have two questions.

The one in the title regarding being able to feel a bulging disc. What I mean is that, can I feel something like this with my hand? The reason I'm asking is because I have a knot/bulge right at my L-4/L-5 which is where my recent back pain/injury arises.

The second question revolves around my doctor. I'm not so sure he knows what he's doing. For one thing, he didn't even look at my back. Secondly, when he did the reflex test on my patellar tendon, neither leg moved. He used the "gavel" at least 10 times on both knees and absolutely nothing happened. It just seems as if performing this test unsuccessfully might be a sign that something is definitely wrong. He asked the nurse to set me up with an MRI and sent me on my way. I've yet to hear back about the MRI.

I'm an extremely athletic and fit individual that is now dealing with an intense amount of pain AND dealing with being unable to road bike/play sports.


  • HI,
    I just had a anterior and posterior fusion of C-5 to C7, (re-do, 1st anterior only didn't heal properly) and yes, I could feel the bulge before I saw the dr. Having had 3 lumbar surgeries for herniated discs in the past, when I felt that bulge and the ache that accompanied it, I felt we needed to do something...
    Dr took one look at x-ray, and with history of disc
    problems, we decided to fuse rather than wait for the inevitable herniation. Now 8 weeks post fusions, and doing ok, all things considered!
    Good luck!
  • Great. Right after I typed my opening, I got a call from my doc stating that my insurance company has denied by MRI request.

    So, what am I supposed to do from here on out? It would be nice to be able to at least sleep and/or sit on the couch without grimacing in pain. And, I've had various sports injuries over the years and none have affected me in a way in which just resting is painful.
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  • HI,
    Sometimes, the insurance companies want things in order...like first an x-ray to show there's a problem, then the MRI... Did the dr do x-rays yet? Insurance companies are starting to balk without the basic stuff first...
  • Thanks Frannie. I've actually gotten a referral to an orthopedic clinic now so I'm assuming everything is on the up-and-up.

    Only problem is that it'll probably take several days to get in and I'm in a lot of pain right now. I hesitate to call my doc and ask for something for the pain because of the overall culture of where I live - East Tennessee.

    Every day someone's knocking up a pharmacy or getting arrested for prescription drug related offenses and I feel awkward asking for something.
  • HI,
    Yes, lumbar pain hurts, no doubt about it. I suggest ibuprofen, you can take up to 4 at a time, that would equal what a dr would give you, and it helps swelling... Since you're the athletic type, I doubt that you have any hydrocodone in the med cabinet in the bathroom....
    I went to chronic pain managment, and there is usually a "pain free zone"....probably for you, while laying on one side or the other....laying on your stomach or back is probably the worst. Try to find it, and stay in that position as long as you can, or whenever you lay down. Also, try an ice pack on the bad area...sometimes that helps quiet the nerves...
    Glad you got referred to an ortho office...they are the ones to see!
    This is a great site for spine problems...everyone here has problems and if we can't help, at least we understand! Good luck with the new dr. and let us know how you make out!
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  • I am not sure that you can "feel" a disc problem with your fingers, though I will say that I had a fractured thoracic vertebrae and nothing was done with it. When I went to PT the therapist asked me about that part of my back- he said, he could feel it sticking out of my back and that it didn't unflex!

    So, I'm thinking it's 2 different things, but if you did something to the bone material as well, it's possible you might feel a little something back there... otherwise it might be swelling? I'd definitely talk to the ortho when you go and see what they say?

    Good luck, hope it's something minor and that it heals quickly and well.
  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find many in the same situation as yourself. That is great you have a referral to see a ortho, but be prepared for your meeting. At the top of the page, in the FAQ section, you will find a link to a article preparing to meet with a spine surgeon. Not that I am saying you need surgery or anything, but it has all the things you need, such as how to describe your pain. You need to be able to describe the pain such as burning, stabbing, aching, radiating and so forth. Also things like what makes it better and what makes it worse. Check out the link as those are all the things they will ask you.

    If your in that much pain you need to call your doctor and tell them, they don't necessarily have to call out a narcotic. He/she might call out a muscle relaxer, a dose of steroids or anti-inflamatory. But don't be afraid to ask for something, as there are so many choices out there which might provide you some relief.

    As far as your insurance company goes, many insurance companies won't approve a MRI till the pain has gone on for 6 months or longer or till there is a true warranted reason for the MRI. Not that i am saying you don't have a reason for the MRI, but they have a protocol they follow to approve them. Typically if it comes from a ortho, they will approve them faster. But then sometimes they will want to see the x-rays or some type of other treatments first, such as physical therapy. Unfortunately some doctors order MRI's so fast and there really wasn't a reason to order the MRI's. Hopefully the ortho will be able to get it through though, they typically know the key words that need to be in the orders to get them through the insurance.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. Also remember there is no such thing as a stupid question. The one thing we all understand is how confusing spine issues can be as well as painful. Good luck and keep us posted on your condition and progress and ask away on any questions you have. Take care and hope the pain lessons for you.
  • no .without medical photography {MRI/CAT} you cant see a bulging disk .you may be able to feel something .but as for seeing it NO .you may see swelling .but that about it ..if you can see it then you are in big trouble .any exposed bone is at risk from osteomyelitis {infection of bone ..very serious]
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • As with Tony, "no" you can't feel a bulging disk per say. What you can feel is possibly the tenderness at that level due to the disk issue. I have bone spurs in my thoracic, and two levels are very sensitive to being pushed on, but I can't feel the spurs. As for the disks too...look at the structure of the spine. If you could feel a bulge, you probably wouldn't feel much else, as that disk would be through the spinal cord and out the spiney process. :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I hope you get your Orthopedic Surgeon appointment soon and he would be able to order the MRI for you if he feels it necessary especially if any abnormality with your reflexes. I have felt a bump at my L5-S1 where I had a herniated disc and was told it was muscles and needed trigger point injections but I can still feel a lump there and still wondering if mine is also myofascial pain.

    If you're having intense pain and unable to go for a walk let your Dr. know and he may be able to help with pain meds. It's not good if you're unable to sleep or go for a walk and be in excruciating pain. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
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