First off, I am a long time reader of this forum, but have never posted anything. After a year of back pain, I am looking for advice from those who unfortuently have experience with this.
Background: I am a 29 year old father of 2 (ages 1&4) and a career firefighter. Last October I began to have some lower back tightness (right side) and for a few weeks just thought I pulled a muscle. Then came the "electrical" type shooting pains down my right leg and into my foot. I have no idea what I did to hurt it, but with having 2 young kids and a career of lifting heavy things as a firefighter...take your pick! Initially the pain was never horrible, it was just muscle tightness and the occasional shooting sciatica pain. Then, one day I woke up with a dull ache in my right testicle/scrotum (sorry for the visual). I immediately realized that this dull ache would only appear if my back was flexed as when sitting down. So I went to an orthopaedic surgeon who sent me for a MRI. I was diagnosed with a "small" disc buldge at L5-S1. I tried physical therapy and 2 rounds of spinal injections and nothing has worked. My surgeon suggested trying another injection or doing a microdiscectomy. I dont want to waste money on another injection and DO NOT want surgery... so I have been stubborn and just "dealing" with it.
Even from the beginning of this, I have not been really disabled by the bulging disc. I can still do everything I need to do, but just have to be careful. There have been a few instances where I have "threw my back out" and have been confined to my bed for a week recovering. But after every incident, I heal but never to 100%. Now, my signs/symptoms are bilateral. Pain, is still not a big factor, but main issues are my constant lowerback pain/tightness when flexing (more of an annoyance) and the sensation problems in my legs/feet. as of late, it feels like someone rubbed the cream "icey-hot" from my lateral knee to my ankle and sometimes on the soles of my feet. This might last a few hours to a couple days at a time. Also it feels like sometimes my right leg my seem weaker (or just heavier..if that makes sense). After driving for a long distance, it seems like i struggle with pressing/holding down the break pedal.
So, basically, I have had this for a year, and obviously it seems to be slowly getting worse. I am so glad that the pain is not horrible as long as I am careful. But pain aside, what worries me is the tingling, icey-hot sensations I am getting now, and the possibility of my right leg feeling weaker.
My question is, am I harming my prognosis by putting off the inevitable? Is it possible by me being stubborn and putting off surgery that my nerve could become damaged beyond repair? Ive heard so many horror stories about back surgery NOT being the answer. Im scared that having surgery may make my problem worse and cause me to have to quit my job as a firefighter. At least as of now, I can still do it.
I know this is all stuff I need to discuss with my surgeon, and I plan to. Just thought Id ask for all of your opinions and experiences. Thanks for all the great info!