I’ve decided to start my own thread on this forum as journal depicting my experience in recovery from L5/S1 disk hernia. I am non-English speaker, so I apologize if my text is not clear. I am a 35 year old professional male. I started having my lower back pain about 5 years, when it would come and go, and would not require anything serious to fix it, pain would go away on its own. Over the years of work, travel and inappropriate physical activities I ended up with L5/S1 disk hernia that’s pushing on my left S1 nerve and giving me sciatica on both legs. I’ve done many chiropractor visits, who do his usual back fix, then give me ultra-sound and electrical stimulation. I also did 25 visits of de-compression therapy where a machine stretched my lower back for 15 mins with intervals. I did see some easing of muscle tension as result of electric stimulation, but did not see any benefit from decompression therapy. Past month has been really difficult, I had to spend 3 days in bed, not being able to stand straight. I went to my orthopedic surgeon who did another MRI, confirmed hernia and recommended a micro-diskectomy. I have read a lot about my case and have heard many good worthy opinions on this forum and others. I also went to 2 other doctors to get a “second” opinion. After all the research, I have decided to try to heal on my own, thru PT, exercise etc, and rejected the surgery. I hope I made the right decision. Time will show. I will certainly work hard to get my disk and my health back into its normal shape. I know this is going to be a long journey, but I am very much determined to get to the end of it on my own.
After much reading and reflecting on my past, I can clearly see why what brought me to my current shape. It was years of lower back “abuse”. I was an active man, played competitive volleyball twice a week and commuted on my road bike about 15 miles each day. I went to gym for weight lifting, and did the same types of routines that many other guys do – spending majority of my time on chest, arms, upper back and legs while doing almost nothing to strengthen my core and lower back muscles. I realize that many others still make this mistake – we guys go to the gym to bump up our chest/biceps/lats so that we can “showcase” to our girls, right!? I should have worked more on my core and developing that 6-pack instead. I commuted to work 5 days/week on my road bike, while carrying my backpack with laptop in it. I liked to throw my kids up in the air, and did many other unwise things that slowly, bit by bit, were putting pressure on my disk, while my muscles weren’t string enough to support the vertebra.
My chiropractor told me that most of lower back problems stem from muscle misbalance. Our core/back muscles don’t get enough of use considering that we spend 80% of our time sitting down – first at work sitting in front of the computer, then at home sitting in front of computer or TV. He noted something that was very interesting – we are probably the first generation of humans in our history who have to make a special effort to stay active. We have to wake up early to go run on a treadmill, or schedule weightlifting routine 3 times/week, etc… He also noted that according to medical statistics, back in 1950’s the average age of a person with lower back problems was 56 years old., while today it is 35 years old. With the sitting lifestyle we are living, the average age will probably be 20+.
My back feels worst in the morning. I’ve discovered that swimming helps me start my day. So, I have been swimming everyday about half mile. I swim slowly, no pressure on my arms or legs. I swim freestyle or back stroke. I don’t swim breaststroke as it hurts my back. I am swimming for two reasons – it helps me relieve my morning back pain and also it exercises by back and shoulder muscles. It feels really great to be in the pool, feels heavenly. After swimming, my day is easier, as there is less pain and I feel fresh.
I also hang upside down for 15 minutes each morning and evening. It hurts a bit but tolerable. I can sometimes hear gentle crack noises when I hang upside down. Not sure if hanging down helps at this point, but it definitely feels better after it. So hanging down has been working well for me so far.
I modified my work space. Since I can’t sit for more than 15 minutes, I now stand most of the day in front of my desk top. It will take time to get used to, but should relieve pressure on my disk. I have bought a little side table, which now sits on my desk and houses my laptop and screen. I also brought an exercise ball into my office and I do stretches during the day. I also stop my email work, and walk around, visit my colleagues for short talks. I enjoy it to get to know my office colleagues this way.
This week I am going to see my chiropractor and ask him about what type of physical therapy I should do for my condition. I am not yet fit/flexible enough for Yoga or Pilates, so I need a gentle start. I ‘ve heard of Mac Kenzie program, but need to check with specialist on what’s best for me.
I drink lots of water during the day. I read somewhere that water is essential for keeping our disks filled with fluids/oxygen. I hope its true. Seems that whatever I drink goes out very quickly, so my office workers noticed already that I go to bathroom very often now.
I try to get enough sleep. I sleep on my back, with my legs resting up. I got a “bean bag” filled with some soft pellets and it provides excellent support for my legs. It can change shape according to my needs. This bean bag works well for me to keep my legs in upright position.
Sorry for this long introduction.