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My L5/S1 Journal

Prior to injury: 33 yr old male. 5'9" 185lbs. Good shape. Avg exercise routine -- Run approx 10mi/wk, sports 1/wk, alternate weekly weightlifting and P90x 5/wk

Early March 2012: Slight lower back injury while playing soccer. Took a misstep while sprinting and twisting and felt something like a powerful electric shock to my lower back. Back tightened up over the next 10 min and I was forced to stop playing game. Lower back was extremely tight and gave sharp pains when bending down. I went home and laid on some ice packs for an hour or so then reported to medical. Still had all strength in legs and back, simply lost range of motion to sharp lower back pain. Doctor diagnosed with minor soft tissue damage, prescribed 800mg ibuprofen and told to stop doing any activities that cause pain.

Late March 2012: Can still run, but no sports and severe restrictions on p90x/weightlifting. Anything requiring bending at the waist or jumping motions give sharp pains to lower back. Now running 10mi/wk and doing light p90x/weightlifting just 2/wk. If overdo it and back becomes painful to sit, I lay on ice packs until I feel better.

Early April 2012: Still limiting myself to 10mi/wk running and light p90x/weightlifting 2/wk. Back is not bothering me as much, still gets tight but not enough to make me lay on ice packs anymore. Follow-up with a different family practice doctor who says stick to exersise that's not hurting me and prescribes 10mg valium 3/day for 10 days.

Late April 2012: Holy cow it worked. The valium + limited activity for 10 days makes me feel 100%. I'm very busy at work and still a bit worried about the back, so I limit my training to running 10mi/wk running and light p90x/weightlifting 2/wk still.

Early May 2012: Working in a remote location 16-18 hrs/day 7 days/wk. Typical day is spent riding in trucks on very rough roads for 14 hrs/day followed by office type work. No time for exercise. Back feels 100% fine.

Late May 2012: Working 12-14 hrs/day 7 days/wk Typical day is spent riding in trucks on very rough roads for 10 hrs/day followed by office type work. Back feels a bit stiff but not bad enough to limit activity. No where to run or gym so start doing p90x daily with spare time.

Early June 2012: Working 12-14 hrs/day 7 days/wk. Typical day is spent riding in trucks on very rough roads for 14 hrs/day followed by office type work. Finish p90x plyometric workout, no pain feeling great -- 5 min after cooling down, shooting pains down right glut/hamstring. Very limited medical in area but fortunate to have a preventive medicine doctor nearby. He informs me could be a lot of different things, but unless I get significant weakness in legs or loss of bladder/bowel control, I should be ok. I begin to take ibuprofen and it makes all of my symptoms go away for about 5 days, then shooting leg pains again. I begin to take ibuprofen, tylenol and flexiril at max dosages to get through the days, but the shooting leg pains and tightness in lower back make it very difficult to get in/out of vehicles, sit in vehicles, walk, sleep, etc. Work will not be complete until mid-July so I am determined to suck it up. No exercise. Lay on cold packs every night.

Mid July 2012: Return to normal civilization and 10 hr workdays. Back and leg pain are terrible, especially when changing positions from sitting to standing or laying down. Walking is surprisingly only mildly painful, though my walk is with a very poor gait. I cannot sleep more than 4 hours, and those 4 hours are very restless. 1st visit to family practice doctor since my return. He predicts I have an SI joint dysfunction. He prescribes ibuprofen, valium, robaxin and refers me to a physical therapist. The physical therapy staff focuses on stretching my hamstring, hip flexors and hip strengthening exercises. I figure they know best, so I push through the pain to stretch and strengthen, but it is excruciating. No significant exercise possible.

Late July 2012: Physical therapy is really hurting me badly. I cannot help to scream in pain through some of the assisted stretches. The physical therapist happens to see the pain I'm in and immediately stops the exercises and informs me and his staff we should be stretching to the pain, not through it. Now walking is quite painful. No significant exercise possible..

Early Aug 2012: Follow-up with physical therapist shows my range of motion has decreased since Mid-July. We change physical therapy to hip flexor stretching, massage of glute area and electrical stimulation around right SI joint. Family practice doctor refers me to a pain management specialist. No significant exercise possible... losing a lot of weight and getting a bit depressed.

Early Aug 2012: Pain mgmt specialist suspects a bulging L5/S1 disc. MRI confirms L5-S1 disc rupture. "At L5-S1 there are moderate degenerative disc disease with disc space narrowing, disc degeneration, endplate spondylosis, and small anterior and posterior marginal osteophyte formation. Posterior right paracentral disc protrusion, results in moderate to sever impinging right lateral recess stenosis with impingement of the traversing right s1 nerve root." Doc prescribes ambien and tylenol III for use at night to allow some sleep.

Mid Aug 2012: Pain mgmt specialist conducted a epidural spinal injection. Pain was slightly elevated for one day and walking became almost impossible, but after that I noticed significant improvement. Walking was still as painful and unnatural as before the procedure, but changing positions from sitting to standing and even moreso from laying to standing and back became significantly easier. I could sleep a good 6 hours without the aid of drugs. Although I was far from cured, I was happy with the improvement. It is now possible to do light stationary exercise bike! I do exercise bike 3/wk at practically no resistance, but it is something. Also had a follow-up with physical therapist and range of motion has slightly improved. I can now touch my knees with my hands!

Late Aug 2012: Pain mgmt specialist conducted 2nd epidural spinal injection. Signifigant pain experienced during the injection -- enough to make tears roll down my face for 5-10 min. They injected me with something to dull the pain via IV and it worked. 30 min later I was able to walk out of the office with my typical amount of walking pain. The next day however, I was completely unable to get out of bed and walk. My wife had to help me get to the toilet and back to bed. This continued for 2 days and then slowly subsided. Overall the 2nd injection set me back, especially in the walking department. I now could only stand walking for 15-20 min before the pain started to make me sick to my stomach.

Mid Sep 2012: Pain mgmt specialist conducted 3rd epidural spinal injection. They injected me with some sedatives during the procedure because of my reaction last time and pain I was experiencing on the table waiting for the doctor, and the injection was not so bad, only mildly painful. I had a lot of trouble standing up after the injection, but after that I felt a bit better than when I walked in. Overall the pain and my ability to move in general was back to where we were at the 1st injection except walking long distances is a bit more difficult.

Early Oct 2012: Consult with pain mgmt specialist. My range of motion and ability to change positions are improved from 2 months ago, but walking is getting so difficult. I can handle some elliptical and stationary biking, but it inflames my nerves for a day or two afterwards. He says he wanted to try a selective nerve root block, but after reexamining me and the MRI he is recommending a neurologist conduct a microdiscectomy.

And that's my story thus far. I've lost 15 pounds and it sucks. I don't need to get back to 100% to stay in my current career, but I do need to improve significantly and soon. I do intend to undergo the microdiscectomy if the surgeons agree it is the right course of action. Thanks for reading -- hope I can provide some after surgery updates in the future.


  • Kinda wondering why you insisted on running when you had evidence, through your pain, that something was amiss? I know there are a lot of runners on this site that have hurt themselves by insisting that they have to run. If that had been me I would have changed to a exercise bike to stop pounding the lower spine, but I also am a member of the hurt spine club and have been for quite a few years. Running puts tremendous strain on your lower back even one that is in shape.

    Hope you are able to get your surgery scheduled on time and that its a success for you. I would be VERY careful about getting back into running until you know you are comlpetely healed. Lots of runners reinjure themselves by feeling the need to get back to doing what they love. They feel better and go back running only to blow out that disc or another in short fashion. I hope that is not you.

    Your post was easy to read so I did. Wasn't full of typo's, bad grammar and bad sentenace structure. Good for you as there are a lot of your age group that just don't care about what they type up.

    Good luck.
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