Re: Mystery diagnosis help
Go see a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation physician. Typically these docs deal with back issues up to the point at which surgery (for a herniated disk) would be needed. Then they would send you to a qualified spinal surgeon.
You may need an MRI since the pain has been going on so long. However, it is possible that you just need a doctor who knows what he or she is doing. Usually an MRI is indicated for back pain if there are 'red flags' such as fever or weight loss. A herniated disk is usually treated first with antiinflammatories & physical therapy. if these fail then an MRI is indicated to confirm the diagnosis & look for when to injest 'epidural steroid' shots (cortisone injected into the disk space). Only when all this fails do you get a laminectomy.
Now you may not have a bulging disk at all. You may simply have muscular issues & need the correct phyical therapy regimen.