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Do discs get better?

Mrs_WoodyMMrs_Woody Posts: 46
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Chronic Pain
Hi all

New here so hello to everyone :-)

I have a question regarding ruptured/herniated discs

I have a very large central protrusion/herniation at L5/S1 squashing both S1 nerve roots so have bilateral leg, buttock, back etc pain which prevents me sitting and sleeping

My doctor thinks it is very close to causing cauda equina (no thank you!)

Do they ever shrink back? Doctor says it will dry out eventually but I could be in jeopardy for years :-(

I am scared that I will have to spend the next few years being very careful so I don't 'force' the disc further onto the nerves

I developed this problem 2 years ago but only on the left side and after about 3 months the pain went

It came back with a vengeance - and bilaterally- 2 months ago and so far I have only been offered very strong painkillers (I do not take them as I don't want to be a zombie!) I have asked for physio etc but still waiting

When I saw my ortho surgeon last time he wanted to go straight in and do a miscrodiscectomy without offering any other treatment so I ran lol - he only wanted to do it as he said 2 months was too long to suffer :-/

Thought surgery was a last ditch attempt but obviously he was knife happy!

I am afraid to bend and do certain movements, have given up riding my horse and wonder if I will be able to function again properly after the pain is gone - so scared of making it worse and ending up with cauda equina

Any help appreciated :-)


  • Hi Mrs Woody and welcome to Spine-Health. It is possible for the symptoms of herniations to go away with conservative care, but it might take a while. You can find some answers on the main info portion of Spine-Health here: http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/herniated-disc/treatment-options-a-lumbar-herniated-disc.

    Wow, I can't believe the ortho wanted to jump straight to surgery after such little time. Well, yes, I can, I'm glad you decided to run, it's always best to seek different avenues first. Have you ever been referred to a neurologist? They tend to try different ways to alleviate the pain and symptoms before heading towards surgery.

    Have a browse through the treatment tab that you see at the top of the page (the link I gave above will bring you straight there), you'll find lots of good information that you can discuss with your doctor. Good luck!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find many members whom have had a micro. It sounds as though the surgeon offered you the lessor of the surgeries available to fix the issues. The other choice is fusion which will change the structure of the spine forever. If the concern is real of you developing cauda maybe why he/she offered up the micro. There are other medications beside narcotics they can use such as nerve meds to ease the nerve pain. Also they can use muscle relaxers to help as well.

    It is possible with the help of physio that the disc can heal, to a degree. If the disc is dehydrated there is noway to hydrate a disc. So you could be buying yourself some time as to when you will have surgery. When that time will come there is noway to tell when that will happen or if it will ever. Being that you got past it once and are back in the same situation, sounds as though your going to keep aggravating your condition. There are many members here whom have had successful surgeries and are out living normal busy lives and don't post to often. Those that still post are most of us with permanent nerve damage. Something you might also want to find out, what your risking by putting off surgery? Coming from someone who has to self cath, on a regular basis, it is not a fun thing to do. Cauda sometimes can't be reversed, so if the fear of developing it is real, maybe why the surgeon wanted to do surgery right away, and he/she could do the lessor of the two surgeries to resolve the issue.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. keep us posted on how you get along. Take care.
  • HI,
    Having had 3 lumbar diskectomies in 94/95, I don't think a disc will shrink soon enough to give you the relief you're looking for... My discs are now degenerating, but that took 16 yrs. I would say do the surgery as it's not likely to mend on it's own, and with your pinched nerves, could get worse.
    Just my opinion, in fact, did you get a 2nd opinion on this? Good luck!
  • Thanks for the replies guys

    Ortho only offered surgery as he thought I should be running around with my kids, not hobbling.

    He said it would get better over time and that the surgery wasn't always successful - cauda wasn't mentioned at that time. It is my own doctor who has mentioned it this time, I have not seen the ortho again yet as he is away on holiday and doesn't seem to have anyone else running his clinics!

    As I am in the uk I will have to ask my doctor to refer me to a neuro instead and the average wait here is 6-8 weeks

    I definitely do not want to have surgery unless it becomes absolutely necessary - I know there are a lot of success stories but too many people living in misery for my liking

    My own doctor said it should shrink back a bit in time, chiropractor said they never shrink back at all and Internet varies in opinion so not sure what to believe!

    I am just worried that I will have to be careful forever because there will always be a risk of cauda

    Thanks again
  • i don't like the sound of "very large protrusion". certainly sounds more clinically significant than something like "a slight bulge". perhaps that is a reason a surgeon may have intriduced the potential of surgery. i have had 4 surgeries including one on a "very large protruding disk" so i can really understand and empathize with the pain and level of disability you are experiencing. :(

    the comment above stating that there are only two surgeries to address your situation (microdiscectomy and fusion) isn't accurate. for example, i have had 2 classic discectomies, plus a discectomy/laminectomy. Other surgeries that i am aware of offhand are endoscopic discectomies, laser discectomy, chemonucleolysis. all these surgeries differ in terms of their level of invasiveness. as for what to choose when, i am not schooled in those practices so i cannot comment with any validity.

    it sounds like you are being cautious and it is always good to evaluate all options with pros and cons first. sounds like your GP has a good head on his/her shoulders with some knowledge of spinal disorders and associated issues. whereas it is always great to give time for things to get better please remember that they can also sometimes get worse while you're waiting. i was told following one of my surgeries that my nerve functioning may have faired better if i had seen him (surgeon) earlier. as opposed to later. good luck to you.
  • I was two years older than you when my problems started; I genuinely wish I had that crystal ball, and although I did need surgery. I have huge regrets of the surgery I had; my issue was pretty much the same level.
    The deal with our age; is that discs often will still heal - how does the rest of your spine look? If there isn't DDD above (I didn't have much above that level), I would seriously ask you doc if you could consider an inversion table - you can actually go to a store like "Relax the Back" or "Back right" and they will let you try one of their's for 20 minutes; if it helps, but one at Costco for about S250. Even if you can put off surgery for another year or 2, its worth it, since the disk may heal (and evenly large protrusions can still be there but have left symptoms over time). The other thing is there are a whole lot of new disc treatment and therapies on the horizon- including stem cells to replace disc material, prolotherapy try to re-create the disc; anything to help you buy time, I would seriously give a try.
  • Thank you optimist and all you other guys for replying

    I do have an annular tear and slight bulge at L3/L4 but no other problems in my spine

    The good thing at the moment is I don't have any numbness or tingling in my legs and my ankle reflex is ok. I get terrible shooting pains - and the pain in my backside is something else - feels like I've been repeatedly kicked when I try to sit

    When I had the first flare up two years ago I did have pins and needles in the left leg and no reflex in my ankle but it wasn't nearly as painful as it is now

    I think it may be more irritation rather than compression this time round.

    The bulge looks pretty much the same on my recent MRI as it did 2 years ago and I didn't have any problems in between then and nowIt did calm down after a few months so I am hopeful that I can get over it again with conservative exercise and physio

    I was thinking of trying inversion - will have to look through past forum posts to see if anyone has tried it successfully

    I am in the UK so will try to find somewhere that offers trials

    Thanks again
  • I also regret the surgery. The doctors don't care about you just the money and they prey on us who are in pain. I hate this surgery so much. I cry everyday still in pain afterwards wish I could go back also. I wanted to postpone it the night before and should've. I have constant noises from my neck now and headaches.
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