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Disk Herniation + + Conservative (Non surgery) and Improving

Terry01TTerry01 Posts: 69
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:34 AM in Good News
Last Thursday 23 July 09 I cut my OxyContin dosage in half today, walked the furthest I have been in last 8 weeks (transport interchange, stood on tram rather than sitting, into hospital to find radiology then return trip) as well as most of afternoon sitting in reclined position for some parts of the day now rather than laying down. Getting more ambitious each day and trip was combined with the benefit of picking up a disk of the MRI and the written report. Fortunately I have a friend who is a retired neurosurgeon and hope he will translate MRI report into English (so useful when return to English speaking country and will then try to interpret from medical lingo to understandable)!

For those out there with diagnosed with lower Lumbar Herniated Disk I felt virtually no change in condition for first 5-6 weeks on OxyContin and complete rest(the reduction in pain while laying down after 2 weeks I put down to the drugs and dismissed it as any improvement). I had moved downstairs and stood up only for WC, drinks and Microwave meals which were all within 8 paces. I further reduced the time spent standing up in the last weeks with larger drinks and more food within reach. Felt nausea for the first 3 weeks from Narcotics and still do on occasion (and probably the lack of sleep doesn’t help and the mood swings etc were helped with advice recieved here http://www.spine-health.com/forum/chronic-pain/oxyconton-depression-and-diet-relationship-–-help ). At that stage I did not believe the conservative treatment would work and only repeatedly watching and reading the conservative treatment articles on spine-health decided to continue. As if by miracle, improvement seemed to start (it is believed herniation closed but still disk protuding onto the nerve to a less extent than at the start and as repairs further pain will also reduce).

While others on this site seem to have recovered far quicker from Herniated disk there are still others that have progressed to surgery. Hopefully my improvements will continue with additional rest and exercise and put off surgery.

To all those still suffering severe pain after many weeks following a diagnosis and starting to not trust the doctors (as I started to doubt) about conservative treatment then I thought it was important to let you know that it may repair.

Background as why I posted this - The spine-health forums (due to the member makeup) often seem to have the difficult surgery cases so thought would outline a non surgery case (at the small risk of being excommunicated from this forum ;) ). I know I was in pain and very concerned with many of the posting and my likely future when first logged into this site. Hope this helps someone that log in, in the future.

Kind Regards


  • >:D< Sending you a hug for bearing up so well under such uncomfortable conditions. It was a triumph for you to make it to the hospital and back home.

    Are you alone or do you have someone helping you out? I hope you do since you're so restricted. Thank goodness for microwave meals. If I hadn't had Keith working from home at the time I started with my sciatic pain, I would have been eating peanut butter and water. On the up side, I did lose about ten pounds during that time because I was in too much pain to think about food. Do you have some gingerale for the nausea? That helped me a lot.

    Other than bed rest, has your ortho doc talked with you about the epidural injections? My severe pain started Labor Day of last year (long story, started in my left foot and then on to back of thigh). I was trying to work through all this time so never had continuous tinme at bed rest. I had three epidurals starting in January. First one didn't work, second and third epi's gave me one week each of wonderful, blissful pain free weeks. Once I lost my job and was not so stressed out and able to rest all the time, I did see improvement. I also tried massage and chiropractic care during all those months. I also bought an inversion table and ordered some gadgets off the internet which are supposed to alleviate back pain and sciatica.

    I've never been a QVC buyer but I "Get it" now. When you're motivated (by pain), I was out buying everything. Only thing I haven't tried was a witch doctor or a hypnotist (LOL).

    Will be looking forward to reading what was found on your MRI. I've had two ortho opinions -- One recommended plasma disc decompression or a microdisectomy (but stated you have scar tissue to deal with) and the other ortho said I was not a surgery candidate and if I were his family member, no way would he let someone cut on me (he referred me to pain management.

    Thinking of you and supporting you in your efforts to become pain free. How did all start?

    Take care,


  • I am posting an update for others with herniated disks to demonstrate Conservative may work and ensure they do not give up and as evidence they have good reason to be hopeful (personally hope I am on the way to having long holiday from this forum).

    I have been pushing fairly hard for some concrete improvements and they have are slowly being achieved. From exercises just on the floor (actually bed) have progressed to weights at the Physiotherapist office which has a small gym and can use weekdays while I am a patient so progressed that way (including the exercises to strengthen the arms which were broken and under rehabilitation when herniated the disk).

    Friday 07 Aug stopped the Narcotics. In Europe can get 5mg tablets so the lower dosage for quite a few days before dropping completely. The doctor actually gave me a script for another week and asked me to keep them on hand in case needed (which is a bit easier than the US friends seem to have with their Pain Management doctors). Still caused sleep and bowel issues for 3 days while the body adjusted. Basically taking muscle based drugs (Diclofenac) while the muscles are getting use to working again.

    Sunday 09 Aug 2009 I managed to walk to pool (1+ km) and do 2 or 3 laps before back muscles at top of hips went into spasms and really noticed the difference between the dry towel in the backpack on the way there vs. the wet towel on the return.

    Wed 12 Aug visited work 1.5 hour trip each was but back muscles (top of hips) started to spasm and laid on meeting room table until settled down and so glad made it home without further incident (and laid down for a while).

    14, 15 Aug have managed 10 to 12 km walks but still problems with standing in a queue (e.g. McDonalds for Milk Shake) or sitting. 16 Aug I swam laps for over ½ hour (guess nearly 1 km over arm but slow as not confident enough to do tumble turns yet and broke goggles) before the muscular spasm started. Made an appointment with Physiotherapist (to determine other exercises and work out what I need to do to ensure can sit and stand for longer duration) showed him where pain and spasms and indicated definitely muscular and have to continue to strengthen abdominals so just continue exercise and rest.

    On a negative since 09 Aug had trouble sleeping but not pain related. Find not sleeping long and tired all day but hopefully that will resolve soon and be fit for work (but have been logging in from home and doing some work every day regardless of condition).
  • I'd have seen this sooner. I'd suggest asking for a muscle relaxant such as flexeril and or valium.
    I take flexeril and it stops those nasty spasms and even the night pain I get in my back and shoulder after laying for a couple of hours. Valium also helps knock the stress out of the body.
    My nightime ritual is Flexeril and 5 mg of Valium at bedtime. After a normal day I sleep till the alarm goes off. Following a bad / hard day I have awoken around 2-3 am from the back and shoulder. When that happens I just wander out to the kitchen and get another 5mg of valium and it puts me back to sleep in 15-20 minutes.

    Not a perfect situation by any means, but it sure beats the muscle spasms!

    The only thing that bothers me about the whole situation is I had to get the meds that work from my shrink! My pcp would not help at all.
  • i am happy to hear of your improvement. we dont hear much from people going through conservative treatment. i know you will have plenty to do in preparation for your move so i hope this will make your trip easier...best of luck .... pete
  • This is encouraging news for some of us who haven't had surgery that the disc may heal on it's own with conservative treatment. I was hoping that would be the case for me but after 19 months of no relief if offered surgery next month when I see the Neurosurgeon I will have to go that road. How long have you had the back injury? I hope you completely heal and keep me posted. 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
  • I'm pursuing conservative treatment until the very end! I would really love to hear all of your updates.

    L5/S1 herniated disc compressing S1 nerve root
    Meds: Gabapentin 300Mg 3x/day
  • It is now 03 April 2010 and a long time since I logged in but still remember all the help from people on this site so thought provide an update.

    General Health :))) - My health really improved for around 2 months with swimming each day until I could sit down on an office chair for a few hours but then started to have some issues. Organised Private health care and then a few days later suffered another injury. I had pushed that hard that damaged tendon in Elbow (most know as tennis elbow) which was verified with scans. Then shoulder pain and further tests shows 7mm tear in the tendon in shoulder (but as improved slowly told after a few weeks that surgery not needed which was a surprise as never contemplated surgery). I am now not unable to swim freestyle/over arm but hopefully be right in another month. Gym exercises will have to be enough! Incidentally did read that it is not uncommon for people that try hard to recover (particularly those that were previously athletes) they often damage other parts of the body. For those reading this please listen to the Physiotherapist and not push recovery excercises to hard!

    I am snorkeling now on a weekly basis (with a weight belt) and the Physiotherapist started me running on a treadmill (manage a few minutes), squats and a few other back loading/ impact exercises. Started with fast walking and built up. It takes tensioning up strong abdominal muscles (i.e. some people that like pilates tell me to “suck it up”) and slowly builds it up. If relax abdominal muscles then notice it almost immediately so posture essential.

    Travel - Due to the loss in domestic bliss I left the Netherlands quickly on 28 August 2009 and flew to Australia (where there was family support). The trip was memorable in that could not watch a complete movie (I.e. some pain after 45 minutes sitting) and had to stand and stretch on floor near WC. The flight from Amsterdam to Singapore is around 12 hours and had 4 hour stop over at Changi Airport. While all 3 terminals have Transit hotels (that you pay for blocks of 6 hours for a room and you should remember to book). I went to terminal 1 where the hotel also has swimming pool which gave me time to do a few exercises, swim and lay down on a bed for ½ hour before queuing up for the next flight (around 8 hours) to Melbourne. With landing time and queue to take off it did not give me much time in the transit hotel but was worth it. For those adding up the time with travel to and from airport, checking time etc then it is around 30 hours door to door.

    Incidentally I followed advice from this site and carried MRI, doctors letters (that I drafted and she “cut & paste” and the Oxycontin etc. and ticked the entry card that was carrying drugs (so was questioned). Must confess when pulled aside the second time before searching my bags and they again said you have ticked the drugs on the Entry card and was told to please go through that door started to worry. Wondered if it was for a cavity search or what would happen but was a bypass door to the exit hall where relatives were waiting.

    Transferring health insurance :?? - I waited some time until right for existing conditions (more than a month). The Australian national heath card (Medicare) kept asking to prove I was a permanently returning and asked for lots of proof. The number of pieces of proof was ridiculous (normally passport and some other Id is enough). I indicated had enough points and stated there were 2 other things I could do to get more points and that was to provide a car registration (and do not have a car) or a gun license. Then asked if they wanted me to bring in a gun into the office next time to get a health card (which actually caught the attention of the worker in the next cubicle who only caught the last part of the comment and spun her head around like a scene in “The Exorcist” :))( ) but seemed to have the desired effect and got the card (immediately issued a health care number) 8}

    The health private health insurance was nearly as comical. As the documents for the Netherlands were not in English they needed something to say what I had been insured. Australian health insurers want an International Clearance Certificate and as was still valid had 28 days to transfer (once they verified was comparable insurance and there were special international health insurance exit declaration specifically for this purpose)! They do not tell you this on their web sites etc. Australia also introduced a policy where people had to have Private coverage or pay back taxes for not having Private coverage for the years did not. Had to prove was not in Australia for the 11 years! Know people that want Private coverage and now cannot afford to start. They have various amnesties (such as for handing in old unlicensed guns) so may need to start one for those wanting to take out health insurance!

    Best wishes to all and thanks
  • Sorry that you had to leave the Netherlands on the note you did, glad that you have family in Australia that could be there for you.

    I wanted to comment on the injury during recovery issue. I can totally relate to that. As you commented, usually those who are athletic and active, tend to push recovery harder than others and return to pre-surgery activities sooner.

    I am an avid scuba diver and work out a lot because I enjoy it and enjoy staying fit. A couple of years ago, after successfully rehabing from multiple lower back surgeries, I tore the medial meniscus in my right knee. I was a bit bummed because after all the work getting back into shape, I caught my foot in a hole while exiting the water across the reef, twisted my knee and had to have it surgically repaired.

    When I talked to my neurosurgeon about this, he just chuckled and said "active people have injuries". To me it was an eye opener. After having been knocked down so hard from all the lower back surgery, I felt like although I had to undergo yet another surgery, it was like a great testament to the effort to "get back into the game". That somehow this proved to me that I can and did succeed in getting myself back into the life I had had prior to injury and surgery on my back.

    So I see your story as yet another success story. All of it! You proceeded to go on with your life regardless of all the challenges that were thrown in your way. I think it is awesome and thank you for sharing this with everyone.

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