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Is it better to rest or stay active?

My back problems just started a week ago. I went to the ER yesterday after both legs, feet and saddle area were numb. The Doctor put me on a steroid pack and gave me some pain meds and I have to call a back speciality Doctor in the morning to make an appointment. They did a CT on my back and it should a bunch of issues with the L4-L5 and S1 area. The ER Doctor had me stay home last night and tonight I am working ( I work midnights) but the numbness is really what is driving me crazy. I just wonder if working is irritating it more or helping it to be on my feet.
Anyone have any suggestions?


  • I don't know about going to work with problems you are experiencing. Having major back problem myself, I have always been told its better to try and stay as active as you can. Laying up in bed is really bad for back issues it just weakens your muscles. I used to be a nursing assistant, and I went to work with my back hurting. They just sent me home, I got to the point where is couldn't even stand up straight. After I became a respiratory therapist and a couple of surgeries later, I reherniated the same disc a third time(L4-5) and ended up having a fusion. They gave me a steroid injection just to get me to my surgery date. The effects of the injection wore off before my surgery date and i could barely perform my job duties.All my rambling aside, with all the experiences I have had after five back surgeries. I would say it better to stay as active as you can, but do not over do it until you see the specialist. They may send you to physical therapy or offer you injections. Most doctors will try to go the conservative route unless you are having loss of bowel or bladder control. Then that is considered an emergency. Hope you get to feeling better.

    Discectomies 05/08 and 04/11, fusions L4-5 Feb 9,2012 and L3-L4 June 28,2012, Staph infection washout 3/2/2012, Bulged L5-S1. SCS trial on January 17th, 2014, which was a success! Permanent SCS on February 20th.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,875
    Please take a look at How to get started at Spine-Health

    You really did not provide us with enough information to give you reasonable responses. There has always been the question regarding Rest or Activity. Both items can benefit the person, but you need to know the specifics behind each situation. Many times, rest is what should be done, while others, exercise and activity will help.

    Some of the information you provide is vague. Such as when did this start? Did you do anything to set up this situation?

    Emergency Room doctors as well as other doctors are not going to order a medrol back or provide pain medications without due cause. What did this doctor believe to be your problem? I am not sure what you mentioned as a CT.
    Was it a Cat Scan, X-Ray, MRI? Disc problems generally are not identified by standard CT-Scans.

    Numbness in any region is something to be concerned about. You always want to find what is causing that numbness. Since you mentioned this just started,, its difficult to identify the problem. Muscle strains, Pinched nerves, disc problems can all show similar symptoms. Though, considering that your ER doctor told you to see a back specialist, there had to be some solid rationale as to why that decision was made. Many times, when you first have a back problem, the generalist (PCP) is the first person to diagnose the situation.

    Considering that you mentioned that both legs were numb, that would tend to lean to a muscular problem vs a disc problem. Disc related issues generally effect one leg only.

    But as you can tell, without more information, its very difficult for anyone here to come up with solid responses.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I was going to say the same thing ! we could do with a little more information in order to advise you ....some pain can be ;;worked through ;;and a good swim /walk can help some BUT in others it will aggravate the condition ..it depends on the condition of the .person .I think that if your doing something that is making the pain worse then you are doing harm to yourself .there was a time when I could walk off pain but then a few hours later it would return ..now after my last operation I carnt even walk as my legs and feet swell and I am forced to stop .so it depends ..please give us more information then we may be able to advise you
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • thoracic spine painthoracic spine pain Posts: 566
    edited 01/07/2014 - 9:30 AM
    Look at a dermatone chart on Sandi's avatar or on this site. You can tell where the pain radiates. Keep a pain diary for at least a week, every half hour saying what you were doing - then pain level 1 - 10 so you can tell what makes it better or worse. I have given you a link to the intractable pain manual. This really helped me and wish I had read it years ago.


    Everyone is different as Tony says. I would be concerned with the numbness as Ron points out - if you keep a pain diary you can tell what makes it better or worse. Your spine is your central nervous system. You need to treat it with respect. If you broke your arm and kept twisting it it wouldn't get better. Same with your spine.
  • mcjimjammmcjimjam Posts: 307
    edited 01/13/2014 - 3:33 PM
    It really depends on your condition. Sometimes doctors prescribe rest for a couple of days followed by a gentle stretching, strengthening routine thereafter. You might want to ask your doctor about seeing a physical therapist (PT) to get a plan for your rehabilitation.

    The general idea seems to be that gentle activity is helpful in healing the back, while total bed-rest or vigorous, high impact activity can make a person worse, but it's very individual and you need to consult your health professionals to find out what will be best for you particular types of injury.
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,342
    edited 01/13/2014 - 5:34 PM
    Are you also having issues with being able to empty your bladder or bowels? Can't tell if you have to go , or are unable to empty either body organ on your own?Any numbness in the buttocks, or genital areas?

    I have included the link to the information on Cauda Equina Syndrome. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it can be a surgical emergency. If I were you, I would be concerned and take it a bit easy until you see the surgeon if the appointment is soon. If you are experiencing the symptoms of CES, it is imperative that you tell the surgeon about those symptoms.
  • AucklandAAuckland Posts: 1
    edited 01/30/2014 - 10:59 PM
    Hi tcgirl,

    Generally I would say that for most usual cases of back pain you need to stay active. Walking is usually great.
    However due to the fact that you are getting numb in both legs and saddle area I would say you need to go and see a spinal specialist/surgeon. Ask them if you may have something called cauda equina syndrome. It might not be that but it's better to be safe than sorry. I would get a specialist opinion as soon as possible.
  • Angry30AAngry30 Posts: 24
    edited 02/08/2014 - 3:44 PM
    Your question brings out my inner frustration (because I recently did something stupid and did not take my own advice, hopefully it will help you even if I still struggle with "should I push, should I do, or should I rest?" dilemmas!). The answer is DO WHAT FEELS GOOD!! As others said, sometimes staying in bed, or just resting in your home is the answer, especially for the first few days to first few weeks of a "disc attack". However, there usually is a time to start moving around, go for a short walk etc. START SLOW ... Don't push yourself. Slow and steady wins the race. Learn to listen to your body. There is no RIGHT answer, only what works for you. Hope that helped!! GL!
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