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Can you recover from a prolapsed disc without surgery?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,900
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in Lower Back Pain
Hi all

I wonder if anyone can help me with this one. I have been diagnosed provisionally by an osteopath with a prolapsed disc in my lower back. I had an MRI scan on Monday (very very painful as I cannot lie on my back at all) and am awaiting the results. I read somewhere that you can recover from a prolapse without surgery, is this true?

Also it says the bigger the prolapse the more severe the symptoms. I am in agony. My symptoms were initially bearable, I was on no painkillers and while I was still in pain I was able to go to work and function but I stupidly went to an osteopath (not the one that provisionally diagnosed me with a prolapsed disc) asking him if he could help me.

I told him that I had been to the hospital and they had diagnosed me as having a herniated disc and that I needed physiotherapy, I went along for a few sessions but felt I was getting nowhere, until one session when the physiotherapist pressed his thumbs into my lower back and the pain disappeared instantly, a couple of days later, I started getting sciatic pain in my right leg. This was apparently the point when my herniated disc burst and became a prolapsed disc.

I did not know any of this at this time. So thinking that the physiotherapist didn't know what he was doing I went to this osteopath, telling him what had occurred so far. He told me there was nothing wrong with my discs and that I just had a severe strain in my lower back and proceeded to bend both my legs backwards until my toes touched my bottom.

After this session the pain I was feeling went into orbit and I have been in unbearable agony ever since, I am on morphine to control the pain, I cannot walk, sit, stand, lie down, drive, work, anything. I need to be looked after as I cannot look after myself without help.

Is it possible that this osteopath made the prolapse far worse than it was by the way he treated me? He was very rough and I had a finger nail cut mark in my back that my mother and sister both saw. I could really do with some advice regarding this as I feel that potentially this man has done serious damage to my back.

Also can a prolapse heal naturally as I am terrified of the prospect of surgery and want to avoid it at all costs. I am saying all of this however, aware that I do not yet have the MRI results and they could reveal something completely different but at this point I think it is a prolapsed disc in my lower back that is impinging on the nerves in my right leg.

I would be most grateful if anyone can help me out here as I am in severe pain even with the morphine and other pain killers.

Kind regards and sorry this post was so long!



  • charryccharry Posts: 5,753
    edited 09/06/2015 - 10:21 PM
    Have you seen an orthopedic surgeon or Neurologist yet? Your Dr. needs to refer you to them. Also he needs to find you a pain management Dr. Also I take Lyrica for leg pain and morphine also. There are many places online that say how long if and when a prolapsed disc will heal. Some on they're own and some have to have surgery. I've had a herniated disc with sciatica for 9 months and they said they wouldn't operate but to try conservative measures first. I would ask a Dr. if physio is right for you. I don't think they could've caused the prolapse. Of course I'm not a Dr. 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
  • Hi Diana,

    My husband has very similar situation as you are. He suffered form back pain for quiet a while (almost 2 years). In mid Oct, 2008, his pain got stronger, but was still able to walk, stand, sit and work. Immediately after seeing the osteopath, he was not able to stand nor walk anymore. He had an MRI scan 2 weeks afterwards, based one the explanation of his spinal surgeon he has L4-L5 and L5-S1 prolapsed discs. L4-L5 seems like an old injury and L5-S1 was caused by a certain force recently. In my husband's case that it's clear the osteopath had made his prolapse disc way worse.

    My husband's is very against the idea of the surgery. Although, his spinal surgeon was prepared to operate on him within a week and saying there is a good chance for him to have Cauda equina syndrome if he do not deal with the prolapsed disc immediately.

    It's now 9 weeks since his pain started. He is getting better and better everyday without the surgery. He had changed his life style totally and developed an exercise routine. Now the numbness of his leg and feet are almost gone, but still feels a little bit of the pain the first 30 minutes after he wakes up in the morning.

    We do believe that one can recovered from a prolapsed disc without surgery. As long you get enough nutrition and have a good exercise routine.

    If you are still in pain, please do contact me. I can share a few tips with you about how my husband managed to recovered without the surgery.


  • Are you still around? I'd be interested if you could give me some tips of what your husband did to help his pain. Thanks 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
  • u can keep wet cloth around the lower spine and belly -just for half an hour- and u can place another wet cloth to ur back -just for half an hour - this will reduce the stress in the affected part and release pain well
    or if u know u can take spinal bath this also help to reduce stress in spine - that is keep ordinary water in a tub for one or 2 inches and keep ur back on it for half an hour
    or u can contact any naturopathy person he may help u
    i am having this L4-L5 problem, and in very worse condition of numbness spreads my lower part of the body ,though i am keeping allopathic medicines for some days , mostly i am doing this and now again i am able to play cricket and hopefully i will regain my fitness
  • Hi alax

    Am 37 year old and have smaller problem since 9 month when I got little pain in my low back and after consulting my DR I, came to know is disc. This is going with me since 9 month but is not using any pain killer.
    I, understand that ur husband got better with a good exercise routine can u share what exercises he use to do because I, did all with machine and without now started routine exercise walking 3 days a week and do stretch exercise but am not getting batter. Means I, always feel the numbness when I, get up in the morning.
    Please share what type of exercises ur husband do every day.

  • Hi Alex,

    Are you still around? I have L4-L5 Disk Prolapse problem since 11 month I, understand that your husband got better with a good exercise routine can u share what exercises he use to do.
    Please share what type of exercises your husband does every day.

    alok gusain
  • I had a surgery on my L4/5 and was fine for two years until I had my baby in August and since then I started getting worse each day and now I am on morphine for my pain. My MRI scan showed prolapsed disc again, can anybody help me please, I can't look after my baby I am in do much pain.
  • Do you mean a disc bulge or a herniation with extrusion? There is a difference in the diagnosis'. A bulge is simply a disc that sits outside it's normal margins on the vertebra and may or may not require surgery. A herniation is one that that the disc is a much larger area and can have part of the disc material break away from the disc and possibly impinge the canal or a nerve root. In that case, then seeing a surgeon would be the best option in getting this treated.
    Seeing the surgeon does not necessarily mean surgery, but if there is nerve involvement or a disc fragment, it would be best to see the surgeon for his opinion, rather than relying on the use of pain medication to avoid surgery.
  • IrinchickIIrinchick Posts: 7
    edited 01/16/2014 - 11:34 AM
    I am awaiting to be seen by my surgeon but meanwhile I just wanted to ask if people had similar problems send how they managed their pain. I can hardly move, my husband has been helping me to look after our baby but he has to ho back to work and I am going to struggle on my own, because anything I do is causing me pain and then even morphine doesn't help, only lying flat eases the pain. I am so desperate to get better for my baby.
  • The first time I had prolapsed disc L5-S1 and couldn't move without getting severe pins and needles to the extreme down both legs. I had acupuncture and that cured my problem so everything was all good again. My back was great for 3 years until I was hit by a car and then my back prolapsed again and I have had at least 4 discs prolapse since my back went in 2009 and acupuncture is not working this time but I just continue with whatever I can. ACUPUNCTURE may work for you you can only give it a try and no it doesn't hurt at all.


  • Hi Diana after reading your post it was as if i had written this myself with the symptoms and physio you had . Firstly my opinion is no your disc will not heal itself because of the severity of your pain and surgery would be the option, but not all operations are successful as i have found out. My opinion is your osteopath made the situation worse. You see, the difference in physio treatment to osteopath treatment is totally different and i think osteo is not appropriate.I had an L5 prolapsed disc at 33 and was sent back to work after only 2 weeks. I had a physical job which made the situation much worse and when i had a MRI scan i had been left with a bulging disc and severe pain like yourself, pain down my right leg and cold burning, numbness, pins and needles in my foot. I am also on strong painkillers and have been for a very long time. I was left with a limp also. My specialist said he could cure the problem but not the pain so i felt there was no point in taking the risk and being petrified like yourself i declined the operation. Like yourself painkillers never seem to get to the pain unless you have morphine and i guess there only so much morphine you can have. Its really down to how you are coping and if life's becoming unbearable with the pain then the only option is surgery. Wait to you get your MRI scan results and that will tell you the severity of the damage and see a very good orthopedic. My prolapse happened 15 years ago so techniques and technology have come a long way. Hope this was helpful for you. Ricky
  • recoveredrrecovered Posts: 1
    edited 07/17/2015 - 12:50 PM
    In 2003 I was diagnosed with Prolapsed disc below my L4 vertebrae. I couldn't walk, sit or sleep without severe pain caused by the disc rubbing on my central nervous system causing severe sciatic pain down my left leg. My consultant , having previously performed a steroid injection procedure which did not work pencilled me in for surgery and advised me to book 3 months off work and be prepared for a 6 week hospital stay and a lifetime of potential pain, I was 43 years old.

    Faced with this and no viable alternative I took to the Internet to find more options, This is what I learned from others together with my own ideas and after two years I was almost fully recovered without surgery.

    1. I insisted that the injection procedure was done again because there was a noticeable improvement after the first set of injections.
    2. I bought a Coccyx Cushion and used it every time I sat down (even in my car) to relieve pressure on my disc
    3. I bought an Inversion table to stretch my discs and used it 3 times a day without fail for at least 30 minutes until I was hanging completely upside down and blood was flowing into my discs to help repair it, I did this for 1 year.
    4. I bought a zero gravity chair to sit on at home so that there was no pressure on my disc when relaxing.
    5. I bought a kneeling chair for work so that when seated all my weight was on my knees and not my back/coccyx.
    6. I took appropriate pain relief that helped stop muscle spasms and included anti inflammatory agents, I did this for one year after which it was no longer required.

    All these things cost me nearly £2000 but I used them religiously to improve my posture and to prevent any further pressure/damage to my bulging disc, this allowed the steroid injections the opportunity to work and to calm down the inflammation. Month by month there was a small improvement, hardly noticeable at first but after 1 year I could walk without a limp, I could sit with my family when we went out and I could stop taking pain relief medicine. After 2 years I had very little pain or spasm, after 3 years I was 95% recovered. Now more than 10 years later I have no problems with my back whatsoever and i am completely cured without surgery.

    All this can be done on a budget , the most important thing is that you do them all consistently and when you start noticing the improvement thats all the motivation you need to continue. I would like to thank everyone who helped me knowingly or not and I am grateful I didn't go under the surgeons knife. Good look and I know how you feel, I've been there

    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click link for helpful information!

  • Thank you for posting. So few 'recovered' people post on the Internet that many new spine pain sufferers are left believing that the future is very grim with or without surgery. This simply isn't true. Many, many suffer terrible spine pain, get treated, recover & go on about their lives. They just never come back to tell their story!

    I've purchased many of the things you talk about. Unfortunately they never worked for me but my spine & general joint degeneration is a genetic perfect storm! I will say that most of these things have a great resale value in my experience so I didn't loose much (if any) money.

    Anyone reading this... Please be very careful of inversion tables & check with your spine specialist first. Spine discs, to my knowledge do not have a blood supply so stretching them (unlike other parts of the body) does not improve blood supply because they don't have any! (Please correct me if I'm wrong) For some conditions & particular kinds of damage you can cause more harm. Even following the 'take it very slow' rules I think I hurt myself more, I'm not sure. It's always better to be safe than sorry. One persons pleasure can be another's poison. My surgeon rolled his eyes when I told him I'd been using inversion & had tried traction.

    I completely agree that slow & steady is the way to go with spine problems. There are many things that can help. We talk about 'The Blend' here & in my experience tht really is the answer. Try anything your doc approves, keep what works & ditch what doesn't. That's how I found my Blend. Some things take consistent use (NOT no pain no gain. I don't think it should cause more pain) before you know if they're really helping or not.

    To steal another members line... Managing chronic pain 'can feel like a full time job' but if it helps.....

    Again, thank you for your success story. There's way too much doom & gloom in the spine world ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • MichelleMc84MMichelleMc84 Posts: 1
    edited 09/07/2015 - 10:16 AM
    Hi, 4 years ago I had surgery, very successfully to repair/remove a prolapsed disc. Before that was a year of excruciating pain/meds/bladder issues so surgery was the only option. 4 weeks ago the symptoms started again, doctor whacked me on heavy meds and I am now seeing a Physiotherapist who does manipulation and acupuncture twice a week, I also have exercises to do at home EVERY HOUR for 10 hours a day, the improvement is phenomenal, I really cannot tell you. After my first session with her the pain had improved dramatically. We are now working on a strength training programme before I return to work in 2 weeks. I am a Dental Nurse so have been unable to work. Please try acupuncture! You have nothing to lose.

    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    ~ spine-health moderator, savage
  • I have two prolapsed discs in my lower back and function normally without pain. I have some stiffness in the morning. When each of my discs prolapsed (12 years between the two) I was crippled with Sciatica. The second time I was prescribed amitriptyline (I live in the UK) this is an old school anti-depressant which they discovered was very effective for nerve pain at low doses. It takes a few days to have an effect (and made me very drowsy until I got used to it). This enabled me to move around more and take some gentle exercise. This increased the blood flow and caused the bulge from the disc to break off and dissipate in the blood stream. It sounds painful but isn't, it is the bulge that is pushing against the sciatic nerve that is causing the pain. If I am extra stiff or in pain I use Volterol gel the 12 hour stuff is best, and the tablets very are  very good (no longer available in the UK without presciption) work on the inflammation as well as pain. Once you have a prolapsed disc it is essential to look after your posture. No lounging on the sofa. Get a supportive chair (I have a pooang from Ikea, as long as I use the footstool this distributes the weight throughout my body rather than putting pressure on the spine. Move around a lot. Make sure you have good back support in your car. Put a cushion under you waist  sleeping on your side at night. Plenty of gentle stretching exercises.

  • I had a prolapsed / bulging / herniated disc in November. I was in moderate pain. Doctor diagnosed me as having Sciatica!! Private physio told me straight away with no scan what it was. I had 6 weeks of physio, swam every single day as that was the only thing that i could do and feel normal. By week 4 i was in less pain and i got back on my bike after 5 weeks. We're now 3 months in and i have no real pain. Im 98% better. I still swim lots, do my core exercises everyday. Ive even been running. I know i'll never be 100%. I do get reminders every now and then, just small twinges of mild pain but i never thought i would recover on my own but i did. 

    I posted this to give others hope. I read google from front to back  and all it was, was bad bad bad and more bad.... its not all bad though. You just tend to get on with life snd not make comments when its good news!
  • Hello
    I have L4L5 diffuse postero lateral and right lateral protrusion 
    L5S1 mild postero lateral disc bulge IV..
    I had severe pain in buttock and leg. Few days back it was so severe that i was not able to move early morning due to pain. I had to restrict my movement. 
    I still have slight pain rather it hurts when i sit and get up.
    I want to avoid surgery need conservative treatment .
    Can anyone advise
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