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Intervertebral disc degeneration w/ herniated disc L5-S1

moniker_jakmmoniker_jak Posts: 4
Hello, im 27 years old and I could use a little help with an injury I sustained.

The subject is the news I got from an MRI evaluation after I wasnt able to recover from a rough fall during an air assult course, I figured it was something that would heal over time so I left it and carried out my usual 15 mile bi monthly ruck marches and training but the pain became unbareable to the point that I felt sick and even passed out which I then saught help.

Right now I am undergoing a series of epidural steroid injections which had worked well but the effects have deminished into nothing, I go in for my 3rd shot in 2 days but considering the track record of about 7-10 days of pain relief im having serious doubts the 3rd is going to be any sort of means to an end.

Im so damn angry that this has happened to me, I want to get back to work at 100%, I want to go to the damn gym. I want to deploy in 2013 im so pissed that I cant do my job at a satisfactory level I apologize but I have to blow some steam off.

Anyway the fact is the disc is bad, its not getting any better and I understand. It seems ive been told all they can do outside of surgery is control the pain, but I understand that if I continue to stress the injury I could end up crapping my pants, id rather avoid that. Ive read forums where people say that surgery caused more pain, ive seen videos of replacment discs ive heard of surgery going well.

Anyway, if I could get any advice I would appreciate it.

Thank you for your time.


  • I am so sorry your extremely frustrated. I can hear it in your post and I completely understand. I am a mother of three kids and the fact that my darn back affects my life ticks me off. I want to be 100% again too. I can only speak for myself but I have had great success with surgeries. It allowed me to be pain free for years in between discs re-rupturing. I have DDD which has complicated things but all in all I have had success. Definately consult a neuro/ortho specialist to make sure you have exhausted all other options before proceeding with surgery. Your doctor would be able to tell you if there is any risk to you waiting to have surgery. I know it's hard looking on this forum sometimes because you see a lot of people who have had surgery and are miserable and a few that are doing great. I always think of the people that have had surgery and back to their normal day to day lives and have moved on. I wish you luck in your journey just gather as much information as you can and go with your gut feeling.
  • Hi Jak,

    Welcome to the board and thank you for your service!

    Rwill pretty much hit the nail on the head IMO, I think most of us here long to be at 100%, but, do the best we can with our out of whack backs.

    I also think you need to see a fellowship trained specialist in spine (could be a neuro or orthopedist), they have the expertise to better assess what the issues are. I wouldn't wait too long to see a specialist since it sounds you're at risk of cauda equina syndrome, which is a real medical emergency should it develop.

    I'm coming up to my 1 year 'anniversary' next month and truly feel tho' the decision to go thru such an extensive surgery was hard, it was one of the best ones I've made. I'm now virtually pain free, have regained most of my mobility, most of the neurological issues I had have are almost completely resolved and I'm very optimistic that if I'm careful/mindful of the changed mechanics that a fusion imposes on the spine that I may be able to avoid any further back surgeries.

    You've found a good place here @ SH, who else but a fellow 'spiney' would know the frustration, anger, etc these issues cause. Please vent, we're here for you.

    I hope this is a better day for you pain-wise, please keep us posted.

  • Sorry to hear about your conditions but im glad those surgeries provided relief, and I hope your next surgery goes well rwill.

    Its been mentioned the discs can rupture again meaning they can continue to slide? That means if a person doesnt do something about it the disc can keep moving into nerves ultimately causing more pain and plausable nerve damage to the lower extremities?

    This means that most likely something like a discectomy probably would be necessary to prevent damage but unless the disc is replaced or the vertebrae are fused that they will continue to have to cut out the protruding disc which would compound possibilities of complications?

    I could see the value of a discectomy if the disc wasnt degenerated but being that my disc is degenerated wouldnt it make more sense to try to strike at the heart of the problem rather then beat around the bush so to speak? It seems logical to proceed with a fix or the next best thing to a fix rather then whittling down a broken gear just so the other gears can turn right again if only for the time being.

    I have an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon, ive seen him before and he pointed me in the direction of an anesthesiologist, prior to that physical therapy which I have been diligent about in terms of stretching and I continue to go to the gym and work out and swim, I do what I can to try an rehabilitate myself even through the pain. I know im doing harm when I ignore everything and continue to fire the howitzer while using gum, cigerettes and caffeine as a way to mediate my pain through field time because I dont want to let my section down or look weak.

    I try to stay away from painkillers of any kind. I just wonder if im seriously risking another rupture, lately its been increasingly hard to walk I have bad pain when standing or laying down so sleep has been hit and miss but mostly miss but oddly not so much pain when sitting, the pain seems to be increasing through the side of my calf, and foot but has stayed the same at the hamstring which was always the wors, maybe it cant get any worse lol.

    Anyway again I thank everyone for their imput and time, its nice to talk to people who understand.
  • Disks can also heal, though. Have you read the articles and watched the videos on this site regarding disk herniations?

    Besides seeing an orthopedic specialist, physical therapy has always been a positive experience for me to a certain extent. You may have to learn how to use your back in a different way to reduce stress on that part of your spine.
  • Yeah ive heart that and with my age thats what I was kinda hoping for the only problem is its degenerated so im not as optomistic about it healing on its own, ive done physical thereapy a lot, about twice a week and i do my stretches on my own 3xs a day. Also my job beats me up and its something I have to endure so I really cant hold out too much hope on that I dont think. Wish I could though.
  • monikerjak, if you want to continue being able to work, let alone work out, I would perhaps put all that extra strenuous activity on hold until you have an exam by your surgeon and a plan in place. If your disk is now so far blown that you are to the point of passing out, and you're still pushing and keeping just how seriously you've been hurt under wraps, you're not playing it smart for either you or the job.

    It doesn't necessarily follow that every herniated disk, even a serious one, requires a fusion. Sometimes the herniation is so much in one direction (that must also be easily accessible) that clipping out the bad portion of the disk is sufficient to free up the nerves. Sometimes the surgeon may choose to add hardware to stabilize the joint while allowing the remaining disk to cushion the joint. Your body would produce new bone to fill in the space. (This is what I'll be having done on several levels on Monday.)

    I'm also thankful for the job you do, and I understand calculated risks for specific gains, but...well, I just hope you can dial it down, get it treated quickly, and give yourself the space to heal. Wouldn't you wish that for a brother or sister? Your parent? Your buddy? I'm pretty sure you would. :)

    Please let us know how you're doing, ok?
  • By the way (and I know you know this), if you're using caffeine and nicotine, you already *are* medicating yourself. There is nothing wrong with taking a medication that can actually *help* you heal and/or deal with your pain. :)

    Just sayin'! ;)
  • Yeah, you really aren't doing yourself any favors in the long term by trying to put on a front for your unit. The drugs you're using are less effective and smoking is pretty harmful- you need to take better care of this body of yours than you would if it was not injured.

    Is your PT showing you how to keep stress off of that joint at all times? What kind of advice has your Dr. given you with regards to impact activities or cutting out any particular exercises?
  • Yes you guys are right, my 1st sgt and commander are aware of my condition. Ive been talking to a general practitioner regarding the steps and various professionals I needed to see and saw them. I go to see my orthopedic surgeon on the 18th of this month at which time I will discuss every aspect from how I can keep myself in the fight, I definitelly dont want to be medically discharged I want to deploy as combat arms once before I reclass into military intelligence which is more then likely my next stop after artillery.

    I noticed bad back pain after the fall and went on sick call, they assumed it was a muscle spasm, it took from october of 2009 to roughly feb of 2010 for them to do an MRI on me. After that it seemed everyone was intent on pain management before surgery, now I suppose surgery specifically the microdiscectomy, physical therapy and some down time is what I need and will probably be recommended to take, the anesthesiologist told me it was probably my best course of action.

    As of late ive been put on a strict profile while they evaluate my options. Ive been warned with disiplinary action of I dont follow it so right now im pretty much on light duty.

    Anyway Im more then happy to serve the nation and I appreciate your support.

    *edit* Didnt think I would post above the last post, lol. But yeah also as for my self medication ive seriously cut back on the smoking, ill quit eventually here. Definitely before July when I see my fiance, if she found out she knows ways of making my life worse then this disc ever could lol.
  • Well, I'm mad at them that they took so long to do the MRI grrrrrrrrrr, but at least they seem to be taking action. You make sure you follow those orders and take care of yourself. And try not to assume what type of surgery you'll need until you talk to the surgeon, you'll make yourself nuts trying to anticipate without more information.

    And as an ex-smoker, I don't feel quite as terrible telling you (as if you haven't heard it ever) that smoking can very much affect your healing, so if you're able, try to at least cut back.

    Will be thinking of you. :)
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