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Lower back pain that radiates down leg and into foot

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
Hey all, first time post here with terrible pain. A little on the history here. Im a 29 year old male, 6-2, 185lbs. Ive had some mediocre back pain for a few years but nothing too bad and always went away after a few days. Anyways, last June i was lifting a trailer that was tongue heavy off and onto the ball of the truck and did this for about a week. I tried to lift it using my legs and all the correct techniques, but probably used the back some. Anyways, that weekend i played in a golf tournament and a few holes into it the back started hurting and on the second day, i took a couple swings and it floored me. I continued to play golf the rest of the year with a lot of back pain. Since then, ive had pain off and on with a really stiff back. Well last weekend i came down with a cold and bad cough. I was laying on the couch resting and i sneezed really hard and a violent pain shot down my leg and i knew something wasnt good there. Everytime i coughed pain would shoot down my leg. I went to the doctor on Monday for the cough as well as the back pain. They took an x-ray of my back and everything looked ok and the doctor said it was probably a herniated disk and gave me some NSAIDS that dont work and got me signed up for the PT. Ive been going now for 1.5 weeks and im very skeptical about what im doing there. Between going to the doctor and going to the PT (2-days), the pain became so bad that i had to basically walk with a limp and had to walk hunched over. The pain was/is still unbearable. The pain is really bad in the butt muscle and into the hamstring and then goes into my right foot and has a bad tingling feel. My foot is also always cold. I have also lossed control over my calf muscle. If i try to jump or raise my heel, i cant do it. When i flex my calf muscle, i can get about half a flex. Its been about 2 weeks now since the onset of all this and i still cant walk really. Like i said, i am skeptical on how this PT is going to work. All i do is do some stretches and he puts some ultrasound and shock therapy and then does some leg pulling (traction?). At this point, i do want to get rid of the pain, but more importantly i need to be able to walk normally for work. I am a land surveyor but can only walk about 5 minutes before my back muscles are so worn out from keeping my body upright that i have to sit down. What do some of you think? Do i really continue this Therapy? or should i look at other options already. I go back to my family doctor on the 26th to re-evaluate everything and see if we need to look at other options, but i feel like im wasting my money on this PT. Thoughts?


  • Sorry to hear about your back. Even though I am a woman, you are describing almost exactly what I went through last year. Especially with the muscle weakness and loss of ability to stand on your tip toe. When that happened to me, my ortho sent me to a neurosurgeon, who then did and mri which showed a disc herniation where the disc was strangling my nerve. He performed a microdiscectomy a week later. He told me that if you wait too long,(longer than maybe 3 months or so) you can have permanent nerve damage.
    He did my surgery Feb. 1st of 2008. It went extremely well, and within about 2 months I had almost all of my feeling back in my left leg and foot.The leg pain relief was almost immediate following surgery. I was back to better than normal in less than 12 weeks. I was back to running and in Aug. was able to do a half marathon. Good Luck!!
  • :D hi and welcome to the forum! =D> we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. i am sorry you are having chronic pain. ~X( i use a nerve pain medication for my sciatica. i have had good results despite a weight gain. please make yourself at home!! good luck as you search for pain relief! =D> Jenny :D
  • Thanks for all of your replys. Do you think i should just go in and ask to get an MRI done. The pain is just as bad as when i went to the Doc the first time, but the tingling in the foot and muscle control in the calf has come on since then.
  • Your doctor should have had you do one right away to confirm it and know what level is implicated. Yes, pick up the phone and call the office.
    It is normal to be sent for PT because it is a part of conservative treatment for herniated discs. I think that you should be in the care of a spine specialist once you get the MRI. Family doctors don't have the training to deal with complex back problems like herniated discs with nerve involvement. A spine specialist might have you do PT and make sure it's someone qualified in dealing with this type of problem. They might sent you to have epidural steroid injections to help lessen the pain and inflammation.
    I had herniated 2 discs in my lumbar spine and had terrible nerve pain. I went through PT and injections and wound up having surgery to decompress the nerve. It's been a long hard road. I developed other problems later on and had a 2 level fusion with titanium rods and screws.
    I think you really need to contact your PCP and request to have an MRI, and take no for an answer. It's your back at stake here and you want to make sure you get the right diagnosis and treatment so you don't wind up having chronic back pain. Take care
  • With the pain you describe it is almost a certainty that you have an L5-S1 herniation. Physical therapy will most likely make it worse. You need to get an MRI as soon as possible to confirm. Then they may want to try to get it to heal on its own with an epidural steroid injection (ESI). They may want to try this a couple of times before resorting to a microdiscectomy, where they cut off the herniated portion of the disc.
  • I really think so. Like I said before, that is exactly what I went through.
  • I really think so. Like I said before, that is exactly what I went through.
  • Is the microdisectomy a procedure that i dont want to go through? From what i have read, it seems like my best option for the fastest recovery. I have read that the epidural doesnt work for most people. I really need to get this corrected now. I'd like to be able to play golf this spring and summer, but more off; We start the construction season in March, or whenever the ground is pretty much thawed out and need to be in the field as i am a land surveyor. i am ok inside for now as this time of year is pretty much all done in the office doing design work, and sitting in the chair all day really hurts my back as well, but at least its bearable
  • I had a microdiscecomy 3 months ago. I was not even in the hospital overnight. I was back at work in 2 weeks, and walking 45 minutes a day since then. I still have about half of the pain remaining. I am going back for an MRI next week to see if the disc is re-ruptured, broken, or if I now have scar tissue. They may tell me that it will just take longer for the nerves to heal as I had a severe L5-S1 rupture that was crushing the nerves for about 6 months as they wanted to try exhaust all non-surgical options first. I had 2 sets of epidural steroid injections and one selective nerve root block. The epidurals somewhat worked for awhile. The selective nerve root block did not work at all. They usually will not just immediately refer you for surgery no matter how much pain you are in. I would say my pain was about a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10, at it's worst. Alternating Vicodin and Motrin 800's every 4 hours only knocked down the pain to about a 5. Not much of a life when you are in that much pain and still have to go to work every day.
  • i can tolerate a little bit of pain, but i need to be able to walk normal and able to carry my 30-50lbs of equipment and able to swing (windmill) a 8lb sledge hammer. Ive got a couple months to get to this point and i dont want to be all drugged up on valium or any of that, as i do a lot of calculations that i cant screw up.
  • I went to the PT again this afternoon and talked to him about the whole situation and he agreed that i needed to get the MRI done. I have a call into the doc to have her schedule an MRI. Still waiting to here back on that. The PT is suggesting an epidural to help speed up the process and to continue on with the PT as he is confident that we can get the disk back into place over time. But i dont have a lot of time and he realizes that. We'll get the MRI done and go from there
  • I know you have a lot of responsibilities, but if you have a disc herniation confirmed by MRI, you will need to rest, recuperate, and rehabilitate. I don't think carrying a bag up to 50 lbs is good for you at the moment. It will cause more pain. Now is the time to stop the presses and take care of your back. Why do you have to windmill a sledgehammer, I'm just curious.
  • meydey, i dont have to do all of that now, but will probably by the middle of March. I windmill a sledgehammer to pound 2"x2"x12" stakes in hard compacted ground. Its easier on my back to do it that way rather than picking it straight up and thrusting it down. And i agree that my back is priority right now and am doing what i can and need too to get it well again. I got the MRI scheduled tomorow at 4pm so we should know whats going on sometime Friday. I'll keep ya posted
  • Christy, how old are you? Everybody keeps telling me that i am too young (29) to get back surgery and that i need to exhaust all non-surgical options before i go under the knife. While i certainly dont want to do surgery (this would be my first) Time is of the essence here
  • I turned 38 on Dec. 2nd. So my surgery was right after I turned 37. I am somewhat young also, but when it comes to a herniated disc that is causing nerve damage, you may not want to wait too long. Also, in my case I wanted to avoid surgery no matter, so I was doing physical therapy, ect., but when the nerve went out two days after my first epidural injections, (coincidence) they needed to operate fairly soon.
    We don't know what caused mine exactly. I had 4 kids between the time I was 20-25 yrs old. Who knows, maybe thats what did it to me... I am not overweight by much. I am 5'7" and weigh between 127-132 (girls vary). Honestly, I feel your pain. :/ Unfortunately, I am in the 5% that had a reherniation. I was great, but within the last month things started to go downhill again and I am having my second surgery this Fri. due to a major reherniation. Not to scare you though, because it hardly ever happens. My doctor says I probably didn't do anything to cause it, but my family and friends are convinced it is because I run. Frustrating!
    Anyway, I just started posting, if you have any more questions, just ask!
  • My neuro told me last time that by 12 weeks post op you should be able to resume all activities, including golfing and running. Those are the hardest on the back. So the sooner the better for you! Also, yes, microdiscectomy is the least invasive with the fastes recovery. However, your doctor will tell you what is the best treatment for your back after he sees your mri. Please don't rush into anything though, you should get a second opinion, just to be sure. My doc is not a "knife happy" kinda guy. If they need to operate though, the micro will be a pretty easy recovery. Take care
  • if you r in construction, r u the boss? if not tell the boss we said u could really injure whatever is already goin on. try to find a doc that can either do microdiskectomy or frontal fusion, so hardly any scar tissue will develop. heck, u may not need anything, just some pt and rest. i did that for 5 years before ending up with a neuro and pm injection md. i've had one epi, another one a week from tomorrow. they did a diskogram on me, because the mri showed nothing. i saw the tearings in the diskogram films, so i think mri's don't always show all. mine only showed bulging discs at two levels. the diskogram showed a tear and a herniated disc at each level. be careful, be knowledgeable, be slow. you have a lot of life left to live. can't do that on the couch. don't forget that. you r more important right now, so u can take care of your own business the rest of your life. boss doesn't want a w/c problem i know. and if no w/c available, disability may be---just for the time u have to take to get better.
    i feel for you--you sound just like i do.
    your friend in hope and pain,
  • I'm in that 5% as well, but mine reherniated just 3 weeks after my microdiscectomy. It's been 1.5 years since then, and I still really haven't found much relief (doing PT, injections). Did you have another microD yesterday? How are you doing?
  • Laura,

    3 weeks? Wow, I am so sorry to hear that! Yes, I had my micro on Fri. I am feeling well, just some pain at the incision site you know. I knew in sept. that I had reherniated about 6 mm, but I continued on with pt, and rest and pain meds and it got better. Then in Dec. it got really bad so I had some injections so I could function and then had another mri which showed a significant herniation (about 18-20mm) so we decided to do another micro before the injections wore off. I am glad I did, I don't like taking mega drugs for pain and having such a restricted life. I feel like I am always held back because of my back you know.... so time will tell this time, but I am going to be really careful and heal correctly. I won't push it at all. Are you considering another micro?
  • Christy,

    So glad to hear you're feeling good. What kind of PT exercises have you done that work? And did you get the guided epidurals? I had 2 "regular" injections and one guided...none of them worked. I know what you mean about being on pain meds all the time. I try my best to deal with the pain without meds because I don't like feeling loopy. I'm a teacher and I have to have my wits about me! I'm going to my neurosurgeon tomorrow ( I slipped and fell last Monday...20 steps back in recovery!). He'll probably order another MRI, so I'll wait and see what that one shows. Did you ever look into fusion? I was told that is a possibility for me, but it scares me to death!

    Please take care of yourself and keep me posted on your progress!
  • hello black95gt,

    Did you get your results of your MRI? You're symptoms are exactly what I have been going through for the past 2 weeks. I am hoping to get in for an MRI this week myself. I was told from xrays that I had done in Nov. that I have a slight bulge in L5 disc and doc thinks I aggravated it recently from my last fishing trip when this pain started. I can't walk or sit for longer than 5mins at a time. Taking pain meds until this can be looked into further. Luckily I get to telecommute from home for work since I have a 40 mile drive and there is no way I could last that long sitting nor would the manual shifting help. I am hoping nothing is as bad as what's been posted above. All I can do is think the best of all of this and the pain will be easily fixed. I hope all went well for you as well. Look forward to your results.
  • I had guided epidural and steroid injections. They worked temporarily so that I was able to function (with major pain meds) to get my mri. My pt didn't work except post op last time. But to relieve the pain this time, nothing worked. Major pain meds like I said made it possible to get around a bit. The doctor said he wanted to do another micro because it is so much less invasive than a fusion. He is pretty conservative. If I need to at some later point then I will consider it, but I wanted to do the least I could do get the most benefit. We will see! I can only imaging trying to teach with all this pain. You dont have a chance to take a break. I hope you find a way to feel better soon.
    To tell you the truth though, I needed pretty major meds to function and they didn't even make me feel loopy because they helped so much with the pain. That is probably not good. I am down to taking very little since my micro on the 16th, just a couple a day to deal with incisional pain. Let me know what your doc suggest. By the way, are you seeing an ortho or neuro?
  • Sounds like you've done it all. I'm not to the point right now where I need major meds. But unfortunately, I have lost my optimism and am just waiting for the day to come when I need them. I'm seeing a neurosurgeon. I'll keep you posted.
  • What is a price estimate for the Micro? Are we looking at $2000? or 20,000?
  • My husband is self employed and we have horrible insurance. The cost is around 18 thousand. Our responsibility for my first one was about 9 thousand total. That includes, doctor, hospital, ect.... I am still making payments on my first surgery. They don't seem to rush you as long as you are making an effort to pay. Does this mean your doc has recommended a micro? Did you get the mri results back?
  • My husband is self employed and we have horrible insurance. The cost is around 18 thousand. Our responsibility for my first one was about 9 thousand total. That includes, doctor, hospital, ect.... I am still making payments on my first surgery. They don't seem to rush you as long as you are making an effort to pay. Does this mean your doc has recommended a micro? Did you get the mri results back?
  • The MRI results are back, but i havent talked to the doctor yet. The nurse just said its a herniated disc compressed against the sciatic nerve and refered me to the Neurosurgeon. Im just wondering worst case scenario. I think my insurance is pretty good (i buy it myself), but its a $500 deductible then 80/20 for a maximum out of pocket $2000/year. I goto se the neuro on the 29th, and im going to ask for the micro. This PT isnt working and am in more pain now than before. I would be sore going in and in extreme pain leaving. I figure if i could go get the micro done and recover for a week or two and start PT again, that would be my best option for a faster and full recovery.
  • That sounds smart. It also sounds like your PT may be causing more harm than good. If you have a good neuro, recovery from a micro should be smooth. I had mine on Fri, and I am feeling great. I am on zero pain meds. I feel better and better every day, and I have to force myself to take it easy, just because I sure dont want to end up back on that operating table. It sounds like your insurance is pretty good. We buy ours also, and didn't realize until my last micro how bad it was, so we have been working on switching. After the micro, you are supposed to recover two weeks before you start back at pt. That will help a lot with the muscle imbalance from the weak leg. You have nerve damage in your leg right?
  • yeah,pain is all in the right. I am starting to walk better and with less pain, but now the pain is getting worse when i lay down. Also some of the leg pain is becoming a more burning sensation at times rather than the sharp pain. If i get the micro, how long before i could go back to work? I am just at a desk job at the moment, so its just sitting and some walking, but no lifting. I am hoping i could do it on Friday and rest through the weekend and go back on Monday, but that might be far fetched. I dont want to miss much work if i dont have too.
  • Sorry to crush your dreams, but no way. You will need at least 3 or 4 days to recover, and then you still need to rest a lot. The main hinderance to your life will be that you can't sit. You can walk a lot, stand, or lie down. No sitting for more than 5-10 minutes per hour for at least 2 weeks, then not more than about 20 min per hour for the next 4 weeks. Sitting puts a ton of pressure on the lower back. Maybe you can work from home with a laptop while laying down. I'm not trying to sound like an expert, it's just that I am going through this right now, and I am probably a good example of someone who wasn't careful enough since I had my first mirco just last Feb, now here I am again 1 week post op, hanging out on spine-health! Haha.Anyway, I know its frustrating to be limited, but life is much sweeter when you are out of chronic pain! Good luck!
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