I believe that anyone who has had spinal surgery can look back and figure out when it was time.
For me, it started seriously when I was about 25. It was hip pain and pain radiating down my leg. We started to go see various doctors and no one could isolate the problem.
A good friend of mine, who was a PA at the time, didnt think it was my hip, but instead my back.
(Now keep in mind, this was in 1978 and disc related problems were around, but diagnostic tests and doctors who could see this were still fairly new)
It was in the winter of 1978 and one night a few families got together to go sleigh riding and ice skating. I was skating for a while, and after about 10 minutes I felt this electrical shock going from my back down to my foot and back up. I limped over to a bench, tried to take my skates off, but I couldn't . Right then I knew I did something major.
The following day, I couldn't walk and my right leg was basically paralyzed. My doctor admitted me to the hospital where they did a myleogram which confirmed the blown L4/L5 disc.
The rest is history....
That night still is so clear in my mind. I see myself skating, I feel the shock.
When did you know?
Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences