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Looking for advice on my ongoing herniated disc problem

Hi all,

New member here. Looking for some advice before going through with treatment. A little background on the situation. January 2011, I injured my lower back power lifting at the gym. I'm an avid weight lifter who works out 5 times a week. This was my first back injury. I was 26 at the time. Symtoms were soreness in the lower back all the time and the lower back was tender to the touch all the time. Additionally, sitting was uncomfortable and sometime painful. I saw a orthopedic specialist who said I had a lumbar strain and sent me to PT for 2 months. The PT didnt make things better so I went to another highly recommended specialist who believed I had herniated a disc and sent me for an MRI. The results were that I had herniated L5/S1 (not terribly) and injections were recommended as treatment. I received 4 epidurals between October 2011 and April 2012. After the last 2 injections I had no pain and felt great. I was cleared to go back to my normal life and lift weights again. I changed my workout routine and decided to stop power lifting to be safe and just workout like any regular person. I was completely fine until the begining of this month when I was lifting some boxes at work and I got a TERRIBLE pain going down my left leg. I went back to the specialist who I had seen last and was sent for another MRI. The results of the MRI were that I herniated L5/S1 even more and now it is impinging on the S1 nerve route. I discussed treatment options with this specialist and he believes that even though the problem is worse now, that I should try 2 more injections. We did discuss surgery but he is trying to shy me away from surgery because of the 5-7% chance that I will hurt myself again even after I recover from surgery.

I'm looking to get some advice from people who have been down this road before. Should I try the shots again, even though the problem got worse after the last shots? I feel the shots just masked my pain and hence I reinjured myself. OR do I go for surgery and hope that after I heal I am able to workout again and live a normal life? Thanks!


  • hutson797hhutson797 Posts: 35
    edited 09/26/2012 - 10:30 AM
    Here is my story in case you'd like to know all the details.

    I'm actually about 4-5months in from a moderate herniated disc. (L5/S1). Same as you, worked out constantly, lifted, ran, etc.

    I actually went in yesterday to see a doc about epidurals...but I got cold feet. Like you, I feel like its just going to mask the pain. My worry is that I'm going to have to live with this. I have been at PT for 4 months, and I really DO think things are improving. From all the research I've done ( and believe me its a lot, ie 100+ hours) here's what I've come up with .

    The body can heal itself. Healing discs takes a looooong time though. I think, at least with me, I'm used to quick fixes. This is not one of those cases. I've read anywhere from 6 weeks to 15 months in some cases. Each time you reinjure, the process starts over. I believe most people jump to surgery because they are unwilling to deal with the pain. Which, is understandable. In most cases, conservative care (even long term) has almost the same results as surgery. Except that you aren't missing a piece of your disc. Personally, if I can hold out to about 8 months, and THEN see where I'm at, maybe then make a decision.

    What have you tried beyond just the basic 2 months of PT?
    For me, I HAD to make lifestyle changes:
    -stopped running, am walking and swimming instead.
    -standing desk at work, I no longer sit.
    -lifting heavy objects is out of the question for a looong time.

    Has this helped? Yes Do I like it, no.
    Yes, it sucks. I'm 29 with a 50 year olds back.

    Until i see an MRI with less herniation, I can't compromise. Why risk it?

    Anyways, I wish you the best. Let me know how things progress!
  • BkinsBBkins Posts: 364
    edited 09/26/2012 - 11:48 AM
    From your description you have injured yourself 2 times now. One from heavy lifting and the other who knows. Your back is telling you something and it would pay you to listen. Its not up to what you want to do. To make the changes that may help our backs are some of the hardest decisions any of us have had to make. Doctors will paint a somewhat rosy picture. Some people are able to go back to what they were doing. There are no stats that I know of that track successful treatments and ones that are not successful.

    If it were me I would not be even remotely considering going back to any kind of lifting and gymwork in general should be modified so your goal, on top of the exercise you get, is to protect your back. I had my first back operation in 1999 and listened to what I was told by the surgeon and that was I could go back to what I was doing. I did and have paid a big price with having to have 3 other operations over the years. I feel that I brought my fusions on by going back and doing what I was doing before. My back and yours are/can be completly different.

    You are asking the same question that everybody wants to know and unfortuately there is no way of knowing the answer. If surgery is being thrown into the mix 2nd opinions, and 3rd's, can really help with showing which way to maybe go. For my 2 cents I'd be totally not lifting and go the shot route. They either work or they don't but if they do it will be totally up to you not to feel everything is fine and back I go to what you are used to.

    Sorry if I'm sounding like a broken record but I can't say it enough and wish I had listened to what others were telling me and not a surgeon.

    Protect your back as it has to last a good long time. It has already fired 2 warnning shots over your bow that all things are not good. Your choice, but good luck.
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