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herniated discs at L4-5 and L5-S1 - need advice

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:31 AM in Lower Back Pain
I am a 32 year old male with back pain and numbness and tingling in my left leg. This all started when I collided with another player while playing basketball – 6 months ago. At first it was just the low back pain and then a couple weeks later my leg pain started. I went to my GP and he told me take it easy and see what happened – he gave me some pain killers and muscle relaxer (which I didn’t take because I want to know what I was dealing with) and to come back in a couple of weeks if I didn’t feel better. When I went back to him with the same symptoms, he did and MRI and gave me a steroid dose pack. The steroids did nothing and the MRI showed 2 herniated discs L4-5 and L5-S1. I am now doing physical therapy and I am feeling a little better, but I am still in pain. I can work (desk job) but I am not able to do the fun stuff I used to.

My father had his first surgery 20 years ago (almost the same age as I am now) – he now has had 5 back surgeries and needs to use a wheelchair when he has to walk more than a block.

I don’t want to go down the surgery path if I can help it – does anyone out where have advice on other options? Any advice/experience is appreciated.

Thank you


  • What you need to do is have you GP send you to a ortho or neuro to check out the herniations. Sometimes they will heal themselves. And most of the time you will need to go through PT for at least six months and other conservative treatments before they will do surgery anyway. But I think you should have a apecialist that deals with this type of thing look at your MRI and give you his recommendations. Good Luck.
  • Don't let anyone rush you into surgery. Like Robin said, go to an ortho or neuro. Do PT, accupuncture, cortisone injections, etc See a Pain Management doctor if necessary to get anti-inflammatory meds. Depending on the degree of the herniation, you may be a long long way from surgery. If you don't feel comfortable with a dr, see another one. Second opinions are covered under almost all insurance policies. And never let anyone try to push you into a procedure that you don't want to do. Make sure you know all of your options.

    Hope you get good medical advice and feel better soon.
  • Welcome to the board. The disks that you herniated are the ones that take the brunt of movement for the spine. It is possible for them to heal on their own, but it takes a great deal of patience over a fairly long period of time. As you stated, you will not be able to do the "fun stuff" for awhile. When you rush the process, you can damage whatever healing has taken place.

    As suggested, your first step should be to go to a fellowship-trained spinal specialist. This can be either an orthopedic spinal surgeon who devotes his practice to issues of the spine and back, or a neurosurgeon. It is important to get a proper diagnosis. You can waste a lot of time with a well-meaning internist or PCP. Also with two herniated disks in that location, it is important to have a specialist of your choice lined up just in case problems develop, such as cauda equina syndrome, and you find yourself needing emergency surgery. Better to have the surgeon of your choice, rather than having delicate surgery by the surgeon on call.

    Spinal surgeons today offer conservative approaches first. Only after these have been tried would surgery be discussed.

    Don't let your father's experiences affect your decisions. Things are changing so rapidly in the field of spinal surgery and there is a much better understanding of how to manage problems that used to require surgery than ever before. That's why it is important for you to spend some time researching specialists and then go to the best you can find...one you like and are comfortable with as well. You probably do have some genetic tendencies to certain spinal "weaknesses" (for lack of a better word) so it is important to get the best advice and care from the very beginning.

    This website has lots of excellent information on it and the forums provide you with an opportunity to communicate with fellow spineys who can provide some perspective from a patient's point of view. Please read through any older posts that interest you, and post often with your comments and questions.

    xx Gwennie
  • Certainly I agree with not rushing into surgery (Cauda Equina Syndrome the excpetion)
    however, there are also consequences to waiting.

    Have you tried the decompression tables?
    Usually found in a chiropractor's office.
    You lay on the table and it pulls you apart at the waist.
    I had some success on one and still go from time to time.

    (Don't let the chiro do any manipulating on you, just go for the table)
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • hi. i have a herniated L3/4. Not a candidate for surgery. My neurosurgeon basically said to take anti inflammatories, swim, walk, stretch and do pt. i also asked him about the decompression tables and he said don't waste your money. i have already tried them earlier this year and i don't think it helped at all. i had to go quite often for quite a long time. i am thinking that your body probably just does some of its own healing during that time. but some people do swear by them....
  • I don't blame your for wanting advise and avoiding surgery. I had a 2 level diskectomy 2 years ago and basically then had no choice because i could'nt stand or sit because the disk was on my siatica and the leg pain to so severe. I was told then I would need a fusion because i have facet joint disease and a torn disk they found when operating. I do feel better but the pain is always there. I was sent for aqua therapy after my back surgery and that helped me heal so quickly. So why not try the aqua therapy first? I am in a pool all the time now Cuz i have one and all my pain disappears when I am in it. You can exercise more in the pool without the risk of herniating another one my doctor says. Also There is a new treatment in clinical trials now which they take your own bone marrow from your hip and harvest it into stem cells until it multiplies and 2 weeks later they put them back in to the area where the damaged discs are and it heals them. Insurances doesnt pay for it yet and it cost 6,000 a treatment and they do 2 of them. so thats 12,000 out of pocket. I am waiting for that it shouldnt be too much longer if its working on people. I am all for 2 needles holes instead of surgery. You can see the video under pain neck cervical on main forum page. Hope to hear from you soon. :)
    2005-ACDF with Corpectomy at C3-C-5.
    2006-L4-L5 diskectomy.
    2009-Cervical laminectomy at C3.
    Steroid injections series x 4.
  • hi there,
    I just wanted to let you know that i've had 4 lumbar operations. (lamanectomy L4-5... fusion L4-5-S1... broken fusion repair... they tried to put in the 'cage' in...failed...'83,'85, '87 and '99)
    I still have numbess in the lower part of my right leg and pain that goes down my right leg. i've also had cervical fusion, (C5-6-6-7...2 titanium plates and 6 screws.)
    I have to use a wheelchair if i have to walk more than a block as well...but i decided before each of my operations that i know what kind of pain i have at the time and surgery can only make it better...i still believe that. (having 15 operations all over my body for diffent things.)
    I've done the pt route, tens units, a nerve block, all kinds of things and they haven't helped. I'm on vicodin, soma, neurontin, temazapam, tagetarl...just to name a few...
    I'm waiting now for them to actually 'fix' my back...LOL
    (I just wanted to let you know where i'm coming from...)
    What do your friends and family think of surgery? Have you had any surgery before for anything? you might be one of the lucky people that surgery helps. has your pain gotten worse?
    Just make sure that you have your mind is set before you have the operation.
    And before you do...go out and do something that makes you happy. relax...read a good book...rent a movie...(a comedy)...it's always good to get your mind off of it even it it's only for a while.
    I'm a 48 female...wife and mother. i have a 17 yr old daughter and when i can...my therapy is to go horseback riding.
    Feel free to write me at my email addy...leaspiritwolf@yahoo.com
    Take care,
  • Sorry i forgot to say about my other operations...one right knee, two left knee...(a pin inserted)...one right foot...right shoulder...left hand...left elbow...(just this yr in march)...tonsils...(the easiest) and complications on my teeth...a pinanidal, cyst removal...
    So, i have been there several times and can understand about how you feel. i had no choice for my first lumbar operation...i couldn't walk.
    Please know that i am here if you need a sounding board!
  • Back in 07 I must have hern. my disc and it got better for about 6 months then in Sept 08 started up again in April 09 I got a cold with congestion and I pretty much can't walk and need to use a walker/wheelchair to get around.

    I went to a neursurgen and at first I was going to have a discetomy done but he also did a CT Scan (which I would highly tell your doctor to do this as well as a mri) he found that the disc has calcified now I have to have a fusion done. The pain is so bad now and it takes so long for appt's don't put it off.
  • Does tens units help help with the leg pain?
  • Does anyone know if tens units will help with my leg pain ?
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