Brief history of my disc pain:
Dec 2012 - snowboarding accident. No big deal at the time, but caused weird small pain in EDITED cheek.
April 2013 - weird small pain in EDITED cheek, intensified and spread to thigh, knee etc
Sept 2013 - saw the doctor: herniated disc diagnosed
Dec 2013 - MRI: herniated disc confirmed (L5/S1)
Jan 2014 - for a three week period, screaming agony pretty much all day, almost impossible to work, ibuprofen didn't solve it.
Feb 2014 - hellish pain now not hellish
May 2014 - Epidural Steroid Injection EDITED TO remove facility name
So, I'm about a week post steroid injection. Pain has changed a bit, lessened a bit, but is still there. Maybe steroids haven't kicked in yet.
I can totally put up with a bit of pain here and there, never skiing again, etc. But what is really really bothering me is not being able to run or cycle. These things keep me sane. (Literally - I get kinda depressed if I don't run regularly.) I just desperately want to get to the point when I can go for 45 minute runs every day. I can run across the road at the moment, or even run for a train, but I can't go for a 45 minute run. Cycling - I can do it (e.g. when there's a tube strike) but it makes the pain much worse in the evening and the next day.
I have a couple of questions that I just can't seem to find an answer to online, and no doctor of physio has given me a decent answer to. If anyone feels like answering them, I'd be very grateful indeed! There are four questions. Unless you're feeling particularly generous, you probably don't have to time to read them all, so an answer to just one would still be brilliant.
1. I can't quite understand why reducing the inflammation with a steroid injection, or indeed with simple NSAIDS like ibuprofen, is a good thing. The body's inflammatory response occurs for good reason. And to the extent that it causes or enables a sensation of pain when a particular movement is made, it is surely a good thing. We are forever being told not to perform any physiotherapeutic exercise that causes pain. So why is it ok to numb the pain artificially and then perform those same exercises? To put it another way, aren't you doing yourself some damage when you numb the pain and then do the sorts of exercises that would ordinarily cause you pain?
2. Core strength. Every physio goes on about this. I just don't get it. I've got pain because my disc is substantially prolapsed / herniated - that is to say, either because the bulging disc is pressing on the S1 nerve root or because the softer, more liquid material that is the nucleus polposus is being squeezed out and is chemically irritating the nerve, or both. How does an increase in "core strength" help with this? And the percentage increase in muscle must be absolutely tiny in any event. I've certainly read one or two things online that suggest this "core strength" thing is basically irrelevant.
3. I don't really trust my physio. He's reassuringly expensive, handsome and well-spoken, but I think he's a dunce. He can't explain the simplest things, assuming he even knows them in the first place. I'm aware of the perils of the "so-called experts" mentality, but am I completely wrong to be sceptical or this whole industry? Walking helps, a lot. Swimming probably does to. But the McKenzie exercises didn't - they actually made it loads worse eventually - and nor did any of the other seemingly pointless exercises that physios have recommended.
4. My pain started off really tiny - barely noticeable - and then got steadily worse over the next six months, then quite a bit better, then A LOT worse - really seriously awful. Over the five months since then, it's been up and down, but it's basically been getting better. The injection doesn't currently seem to have had a huge effect. Do you think that maybe if I just kind of do nothing - i.e. wait - it'll probably be fine in a year's time.
5. Smoking. I smoke. Roll-ups, 15 a day. If I give up, and the small blood vessels in the relevant area start to see some blood again, will that help the disc heal in some way. (I understand that discs don't "heal" in the same way that a broken arm does, but still.) Please don't just say "Of course you should give up smoking!". I agree - of course I should give up smoking. But I'd just really like to know if anyone has had any particular measurable improvement by giving up.
Thanks very much indeed for taking the time to read.
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