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21 w/ herniated disk sciatica, genital numbness

phenom34pphenom34 Posts: 27
I am 21, herniated l5 s1 weightlifting. I have been resting it for about 5 months now and haven't recovered yet. Ive tried rest, NSAIDS, oral steroids, injected steroids, etc.
Ive seen GP, orthopedic sugeon, neurosurgeon, osteopath, and neurologist. So far a big herniated disk on l5 s1 and slight degeneration on the disk above. My leg emg is normal.

Basically, I am having sciatica and numbness/loss of sensation in my penis/scrotum. I am currently in physical therapy and may do spinal decompression soon, there is a center for that near my house.

What can I do to maximize recovery, and such. none of the doctors recommend surgery because of my age.

The pain isn't too bad lately, but the genital numbness is not fun and interferes with sex life. What suggestions do you have?


  • When did you last see a surgeon? The numbness is your genital area is concerning. Have you talked your doc about this symptom?
  • I would mention the numbness to your Surgeon. I have the same problem in women's parts but they still said I wsn't a candidate, but since you're young you should mention that to your Dr. I've had epidurals that have helped the leg and back pain. Do you have a Pain Management Dr. yet? 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
  • Ive mentioned it to both surgeons and they both insisted on no surgery and seemed to kinda ignore the symptom. The neurologist was the only one who took it serious, basically s1 radiculopathy. I saw a urologist too and he said im normal urologically.

    At one point i had 100% loss of sensation on one side at this point i have most of it back but i still dont have even sensation and it bothers me a lot. I wish there was something else to do about it and I am worried it might not ever go back to normal.
  • this is a symptom no one wants but more importantly you are far too young to be ignored go back and see your docs and insist on further investigations you do not want to be lrft with any long term problems if this is affecting your ability to orgasm then it makes it more necessary to get some answers. my neurologist was also the only one who to my similar issues so i suggest trying them first

    take care

    dawnie x
  • oh wow... Im very sorry you are going through this!! I say see a different surgeon or go back and see them again.

    Hope you get some relief soon!!

    take it easy
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    Have either of the doctors provided you with their reasons why surgery is not suggested?
    Age can't be a limiting factor, since spinal problems never discriminate regarding age.
    Many times if one doctor has one opinion and another something different, you would want to seek a third opinion.
    So, since these doctors agree, what is their rationale?
    And what is their action plan for you?

    I would meet these doctors again to discuss, never insist on further investigation. Instead ask them again what could be causing the problem you are having
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • ok i lumbered in like a bull in a china shop there but someone ought to be able to help or offer you some suggestions as to what needs or can be done to help you ron is totally right insisting is not appropriate it can be counter productive in the long run and does not take into account the bigger picture needed to achieve the correct differential diagnosis. i wish you the best of luck and hope you find the answers you need.
    best wishes
  • The doctors feel my hernia is not that bad and might resolve with time. They want to eliminate all conservative treatment options before surgery. I am just really worried waiting too long can be bad this lack of penile sensation bothers me greatly. They feel that surgery may cause me more problems.

    NSAIDS and steroids haven't worked, i am trying a month of physical therapy and going from there. The orthopedic surgeon, neurosurgeon, and neurologist said a lot of times these things resolve without surgery.

    Here is a picture of my MRI: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/photo/data/500/a0084_copy2.jpg

    If I keep having problems they said eventually I might be a candidate but not until conservative treatments are exhausted.
  • Did you do a specific type of exercise to cause the herniation (squats, dead lift, press)? Just curious.

    When you say you haven't recovered, does that mean you haven't gotten any better or are you seeing progress, because you said "The pain isn't too bad lately"?

    Seems like you've gone through lots of medical procedures. Now that it's been 5 months, can they give you another MRI to see if the extrusion is disolving, even a little? I'd think that would be greatly encouraging or determine if you'll need surgery.

    What is your life situation? Seems like you have good medical insurance. If you're parents are well off, I'm sure they would pay for a second MRI if insurance doesn't cover it.
  • I hurt myself doing squats. I powerlifted for almost 3 years and worked with up to 400 lbs on the squat and 500 on deadlifts. I was doing fast squats with 200 lbs more like a warmup and something slipped the wrong way out of the bottom.

    I had a few months of excruciating back pain (6/10), sciatica (up to 8/10), and complete numbness on the right side of genitals.

    At this point, laying down i have little to no pain. Doing regular stuff and sitting for more than 20 mins gets me up to about a 3/10 but it still is annoying. A lot of the sensation came back but it still is missing fine touch and generating erotic signals on a lot of it. Ive been like this for a couple months now.

    It gets aggravated really easily.

    Its killing me i am a very athletic person and I cant work with weights anymore which was a major life passion. I play tennis couple times a week but that aggravates my back too.

    Life situation: comfortable with decent insurance, my insurance is starting to question paying stuff lately and tries to challenge everything, but my mom always wins. Parents are more than willing to help me with this. Insurance won't cover spinal decompression that will run like 4000$

    I like the idea about a 2nd mri.

    Thanks for the advice guys.
  • Were you being coached when doing squats or was it just you and friends? I know you're only 21, but did you ever think of becoming a weight lifting coach? Reason I say this is because you could persue your passion and possibly save others from doing the same to their backs.

    Another thing to think about is developing an alternate weight routine for yourself (and possibly others). Benching, Lat pull, flies (with assistance), pullups, dips, pushups, etc. Lots of alternatives that put little-to-no direct pressure down the spine. That's what I'm doing now.

    Yeah, I just had my MRI. It cost a little over $900 through insurance. At the 6 month mark I'd probably request one.
  • I have similar issues, I have a herniated L5-S1 and the majority of my discomfort is not in the back its in the front. I have had this problem about 5 yrs. I get the cold/burning nerve pain sensations in the front of the hips, groin, inner thighs, waist line. Moves around alot. Just my pants touching at the waist agravates it. MRI in March, neurologist sent me to physical theraphy temporaly gave me some relief. Sitting is what fires it up the most, standing, laying down and mild activity gives me some relief. Its not a huge amount of pain its the crazy unease it creates of having this sensation even after having the Doc say it was coming from my disc it still always make you think that there is something else going on bad down there. Luckily it hasnt effected me sexually in function at least maybe just lower desire from the discomfort.
  • Hi There Phenom34,

    My heart goes out to you, hang in there.

    I hope my story helps.
    WEEK 1

    About 8 weeks ago, I felt a pain in my hip while running on a tread mill at the gym. I stopped, and did some stretches to work the pain off. As I was walking to the train to get home, every step i took made the pain worse. I can't convey how painful it was to sit on the train as well. I made it home thanks to my dad, and by night time, I asked if he could take me to the emergency room.

    I saw a rude doctor after about 3.5 hours. They gave me a string painkiller via a needle in my tricep. It didnt take away the pain, but put me to sleep. I finally had an Xray. The doctor conveyed that I pulled something, gave me some painkillers and sent me on my way.

    It is depressing when you feel hopeless and no one is there, especially doctors, to offer an light to your darkness. I felt this for the next 3 weeks.

    I lay in bed all weekend thinking I had seriously pulled a muscle and resting would be good. Big mistake. I didnt know I had a hernia, so I slept on my stomach most of the weekend, surfing the net. I got up at 4 am on monday morning to go pee. I started my business after limping to the bathroom. By the time I was half way through, i needed to stop I was in so much pain. I yelled for my father to call an ambulance. My poor dad had to clean my mess in the bathroom.

    2.5 hours later an ambulance arrived. After describing my symptoms, one of the technicians was certain it was a hernia. I didn't want to believe it cause I had so many hopes for the next few months. I knew what hernias were all about, cause I had one when I was 19 (L4L5). It was operated on and I was perfect until this incident. FYI, this is a completely different hernia. I would come to know that I have a very narrow spinal column making me susceptible to hernias.

    I saw a doctor at the same emergency room who ordered a CT scan that morning. It showed a possible herniation, they didnt know how severe. So, I was sent home again with stronger pain killers and an acquisition for an MRI set for 5 weeks from then. I was told to stay as active as possible. It was impossible to do anything because of the pain, even with pain killers. But, every opportunity I had, I would walk...to the bathroom, to the kitchen...etc. Whatever I cold do, I did.

    I had no feeling in the left of my left foot, and in my left glute down into my hamstring. At the time I didnt have pain in my testicles, but as the weeks went by, I had a numbing pain in my left testicle with a slight sensation to pee at the tip of my penis (which has subsided).

    The initial pain on the Monday morning was the worst pain I've ever felt. My father started to cry watching the paramedics try and get me to stand up and make it to the stretcher outside. So, I sympathize with any pain you may have felt or are feeling.

    Currently, I can't stand for too long without feeling that gnawing numbness in my left testicle. Same with sitting.

    WEEK 5

    The results of my MRI showed a sever 50-60% herniation of the L5-S1 disk.

    WEEK 6

    The process of getting treatment isn't obvious and wasn't easy. Especially in Quebec. No doctor would take me seriously without showing them the symptoms I had were very painful. The doctor who ordered my MRI still, to date, has not got back to me with my results. I requested a copy of my MRI right after it was done, AND a copy of my CT scan results from Week 1.

    I made an appointment with a physiotherapist because I initially thought the symptoms of sciatica I was feeling were a result of damage to my piriformis muscle. The physio therapist put me on the path to getting seen an heard and now im sharing the power with you...

    1. SEE A GENERAL PRACTITIONER at a WALK-IN CLINIC. Emergency rooms will always take forever to see a doctor that has no time to listen to your problems patiently and semi-follow your case. The walk-in clinic provides that opportunity, just get there early in the morning...

    2. if you have pain/numbness in your sexual organs (male or female) TELL THE DOCTOR ABOUT THE PAIN/NUMBNESS IN YOUR GENITALS. This could indicate a real serious problem called Cauda Equina...you don't want this. Google it. If you have loss of sensation in the saddle area AND your genitals have numbness and pain....this is an emergency situation. The doctor should give you a referral to see a neurologist/neurosurgeon in some cases refer you to one. The problem is that specialists like these, where I'M at anyway, have a 5-6 month wait. If you wait this long, your problems can compound, and sometimes with irreversible damage. I don't want to be a fear monger, but straight up...this scared me enough to get a move on treatment.

    3. Go to the nearest emergency room BELONGING TO A UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL...the reason being, they have specialists on-call. If you go to the emergency WITH YOUR REFERRAL AND MRI COPY IN HAND complaining of pain in your genitals, and a referral with "cauda equina" on it, they will definitely see you as soon as possible.

    I followed this procedure on the advice of my physio therapist. I saw a neurosurgeon (immediately, as opposed to 5-6 months) who was quick to recommend surgery. Then 1 hour later, an orhtopedic surgeon came out and said, "we'll try physio for three weeks and then see if you actually need surgery...."

    TREATMENT: Im on Physio Therapy twice a week. Im using Ibuprofen to keep my inflammation down. Most iportantly, I try icing my back, every opportunity I get (15 minutes every 2 hours is IDEAL)

    WEEK 7

    Im glad to say I am doing better. I still have numbness in certain areas, but that's usually the last thing to subside. First to t subside is pain, which other than my left testicle, im pain free. Then the weakness is second to go. THEN, last the nerves return to normal function...im taking Lyrica for nerve regeneration.

    DONT WAIT...the only reason im doing a little better now is cause I didnt wait. Your herniation can heal, but you have to help it. Avoid surgery if you can. Scar tissue is a biatch when the weather changes. I know this from my first surgery....plus anything can go wrong.

    New Research, which my Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jarzem...an excellent doctor, told me about, indicates that larger herniations recover better than those with surgery. My herniation was so large that my body started to attack it like a foreign entity. ...

    my last risk is if my bulge detaches and moves down my spine.

    I know I was all over the place in this post...but i was typing fast, I want to reach out and help so bad...

    Just don't wait...
  • Phenom,
    I feel for you, but that only gets us so far. Doesn’t it. I am 33 with l5/s1, but different symptoms than yours. I was also very active (gym, snowboarding, tennis, ect) and hope to be again. You can see my history here.
    I use it for support and to keep track of my symptoms and progress.

    I am guessing you are worried about genital numbness for sexual reasons. I get it, but there is a larger risk out their. If this turns to pain when you use the bathroom, you are straight off to the ER and into surgery. I am a bit surprised your existing doctors haven’t gone over that with you. That is one of the things I was most worried about with my problem.

    Doctors tend to want to try everything but surgery because they are fearful that once you start down the surgery path, a reasonable percentage stay there for future problems and surgery. There are also significant risks to these surgeries.
    I have a couple suggestions. First off, try the decompression table. You are right that insurance is not going to pay for it. Many chiropractors want you to pay for the whole thing up front. Go in, talk to the head chiropractor. Beg to pay on a daily basis and don’t miss your appointments. From everything I have read and my own personal experience, they do have a good success rate if the herniation is not fragmented. It is defiantly worth a try in my opinion.
    All surgeries are not the same. All surgeons are not equally talented. Ask the hard questions. After all, you are the one who is going to have to live with your decisions. My herniation was large (like yours) and turned out to be fragmented. While the decompression table did help, it couldn’t get to the heart of my particular issue. I went into surgery but did not have a traditional Microdiscectomy. My surgery was a breeze (not making any guarantees on anyone else’s). They took out 2 ½ inches (1 inch wide) of stuff out of my back. I had no stitches. I have to really search to find the entry point. My point is that there are procedures out there that are less invasive than the traditional procedures. If you need surgery, there are good options.
  • hello i am 30 and have the same problem it sucks i ve had 1 surgery to fix disk l4 l5 this is different kind of pain very bad wife dose not understand the pain have u found anything that helps if so plz reply
  • Add me to the list. Left herniation @ L5-S1. Happened four years ago (2005) and did all the normal treatments back then. Ultimately my second cortisone shot (1 week after the first) resolved it. Did PT for about 3 months and been fine until now. Starting in Aug 2008 penile sensation and lack of feeling during orgasm gradually happened but back/sciata was not there. It was recently tied to the herniation as a possible source and working with a neurologist and neurosurgeon. He is right, the cauda equina is something YOU DON'T want because nerve damge may become permanent. Seeing a urologist who specializes in neurological correaltion to sexual dysfunction next week to be sure.
  • I have had l5 fusion l4 decopresion S1 release. I am still in as much pain and disfuctional. The most effective thing I have found is my inversion table.
    2 times daily I hang upside down helps more than anything. I would strongly suggest it before surgurey. My father has the same symtoms as me and S1 injections and inversion table,he is back up on his feet and in better shape than me.

  • John - Thanks for your input, greatly appreciated. One question...when your father is up and running after his injection, do you mean he had the same sexual dysfunction and it is back as well? Thanks!
  • I'm resurrecting this post due to my search on sexual dysfunction.

    I had a severe herniation and rupture of L5-S1 last year. I had severe nerve root impingement and symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome including having peed all over the floor on my way to bathroom. From all I've researched, my problem should have been treated as an emergency situation. The 1st ER dr. I saw thought so and wanted to admit me to the hospital. Idiot family dr. said no since my pain was under control at that time. Long story short: 3 weeks of absolute Hell ensued. 2nd visit to ER was by ambulance since I could not walk, could not even turn over in bed. Finally got MRI 5 days after1st ER visit, then scheduled for surgery 2 weeks out. Pain was not under control. I passed out twice, after not sleeping for over 24 hours due to pain. Landed in ER once more before surgery. 1 year later and my back was doing good, but still severe nerve damage; numb from back all the way down leg plus 3 paralyzed toes, loss of sensation in groin and sexual organs on that side. I have shooting, stabbing, burning nerve pain down my leg, weakness in my leg, and loss of balance.

    If you have loss of sensation, you have nerve impingement. Something needs to be done to relieve the pressure on your nerves or it will most likely become permanent, like mine. However, surgery itself has risks of causing worse nerve damage and you could end up in worse shape than you are now. If you're not in excruciating pain and your symptoms are not debilitating or would be considered disabling if permanent, then I understand the surgeon's reservations about surgery.

    Good luck! It sounds like conservative measures have helped you this far, and ongoing care may restore most, if not all function.
  • Thanks for the update! I'm also still trying to resolve the sexual dysfunction. Not making much progress but have had enough tests to indicate it's nerves. The last urologist thought pelvic floor syndrome so that option is being explored. A slow onset of CES is also a possibility. Either way, it's frustrating and seems there's little cases and or knowledge on this type of condition.

    Haven't had much back pain at all and bowel function seems fairly normal since the l5-s1 injury (see previous post)

    Hope a definite answer is found so I know my options and before any pemranent damage is done.
  • Went through a few doctors i haven't gotten much better. The guy I just saw wants to do a percutaneous microdiscectomy on me and thinks it will help me tremendously. He wants a new mri to verify there is still nerve impingement, which i feel is reasonable.

    Any input? I am having a lot of problems with pain from sitting long periods of time.
  • Yes, the focus on the spinal injury has been put on the backburner and the path we are taking now is pudendal nerve compression. I am going to see a physical therapist for treatment of the pelvic floor issues. From the research i've done and your comment of pain from sitting, it may be worthwhile to check into. I'll keep you posted on my results.
  • So far so good, I have regained morning erections so I feel I am on the right path. Still ED and no feeling but from what I have researched and been told, it takes ahwile for the nerve to recover after being compressed/stretched. Unfortunately the nerve endings are the last to recover so being that the penis is one of the nerve endings for the pudendal nerve, it may take awhile. I have seen it can be from weeks to months to years depepending on the damage. I'll keep you posted on my results.

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    Post Edited by Moderator haglandc

    Please remember though that damage or pressure at S2 or S3 can cause this pain also.
  • My 2-cents...you keep mentioning Neurologist. What about a neurosurgeon that specializes in spines. They are a bit different.

    As for the numbness in the groin (perineum), this happened to me when I herniated my disc. I was 40 when it happened. I would try to find another Orthopedic Spine doctor or Neurosurgeon to discuss your records and what you've tried.

    I suspect they may not want to try surgery b/c it can do more damage than good. Also, even if the surgery works, you may have to curb your life style (cut back the lifting).

    Tough to have to deal with this at any age but definitely sorry this happened to you in your 20's.

    Seek out another opinion. Find a fellow-ship trained doctor as I mentioned above.

  • phenom34 were you able to get your problem solved?
  • I too have this problem and it also has happened to me when I am still quite young at 29. The left half of my groin went numb as well as the read and inside of my thigh from my buttocks to my knee. I too got it from lifting weights and heavy squatting and was also extremely disappointed that my hobby and lifestyle choice that I worked for years at were wiped away in an instant.

    I had microdisectomy 3 months after the onset of the numbness and pain and it has only partially restored sensation in my groin. (about 60% feeling vs 20% from before. My leg is still numb and I get awful neuropathic pain and spasming still, but no where near as painful as it was before surgery (from 10/10 to about 7/10 at it's worst in much less frequency than before. Still very draining though)

    The downside of surgery is my back is extremely stiff and my mobility is limited most of the time. Before surgery I was in agonizing pain but I could still do things like bend over and tie my shoe. After surgery my back is now so stiff that I can't bend over half the time. Basically the trade off was slightly less pain but severe stiffness in my back. I guess this is one of the reasons why some doctors avoid surgery. Limited relief but new problems caused by the surgery itself.

    I still haven't found a way to manage the neuro pain. It seems to come and go no matter my level of activity or rest.
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