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Herniated L3-L4 disc surgery 2 yrs ago... pain coming back

Hi, I am new here and didn’t exactly know where to start. I am 55 and I blew my L3-L4 disc about 2 yrs ago after suffering for 10 yrs with chronic back/leg pain when the disc was bulging. I finally had surgery 4 months after it blew out. My pain virtually went away and I got my life back slowly. For the last several weeks I am once again experiencing low back pain and numbness in the back of my left thigh. I can not do narcotics anymore on a long term basis (I got severely addicted.. and don’t want to go down that road again) and have been taking a lot of anti-inflammatory meds again that tear up my stomach and don’t help a whole lot. I dealt with the constant pain drug free for 3yrs, after putting myself through a drug treatment program, before it finally blew. I am not sure what I should do… I have arthritis in my TMJ from a surgery 12 yrs ago, and osteoarthritis in both thumbs. I feel like I am being treated like a whiner that just wants drugs (I just want no pain, w/out drugs) and so I am afraid of saying anything about the back pain coming back. Do I tell my doc and hope he suggests another MRI to see what’s going on or what? I stretch daily and exercise moderately during the week.. but this back pain is bringing back a lot of old memories that I thought were long gone… Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


  • Well.. a little disappointed with "0" responses. I did contact my doc and told him about the renewed back pain. He did not think an MRI was needed at this point, but is sending me some information to read over. I know I still have bulging disc at L4-L5 and suspect that may be what I am feeling. Ibuprofen & Tylenol are of some help, but I can't live on this stuff for the long term. I got such great relief with the first surgery and suffered for a very long time prior to that. I don't want to go down that road again, and don't understand why the medical community won't address bulging disc's that are clearly causing issues. I have had several cortisone injections in the past with very little success. What else can I do? Anybody??
  • I'm surprised your doc didn't consider diagnostic tests. Without knowing what's wrong it's hard to advise. Many have bulging discs without pain & it can resolve on its own. there's a big difference between bulging & herniated. osteoarthritis can be incredibly painful, could this be the problem? We're your stretches & exercises recommended by a physical therapist? That could be an option.
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I don't visit the site that often. Now 18 months out from L4 open discetomy and some other stuff. I find if I start to hurt I start to move wrong and get all out of alignment. Acupuncture is great for that and I have a massage therapist that has been with me before, during, after surgery and really knows my quirks. It takes a team, a lot of patience and time. I recommend that you find a community acupuncture practice , they are affordable and could be a way to help with your other problems. Good luck.
  • margins where the disc usually sits. It is usually broad based, meaning that it is wider than it is height......a herniation is usually exactly the opposite.....
    The issue is that with an MRI, what appears to be simply a bulging disc may not show if the bulge is in contact with the nerve root due to the position you are placed in for the MRI. An MRI is simply a snap shot of a moment in time caught on film. If you are standing or sitting, the bulge may come in contact with the nerve root for a bit, resulting in symptoms that you don't have constantly, and while laying it may resolve for a bit.
    It could also be a result of the nerve if it was compressed prior to surgery , reawakening, or regenerating. Some neuropathic medications such as lyrica or gabapentin might help if that is the case.
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