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Severe sciatic pain from a disc extrusion

Help! I have a severe disc extrusion that is causing severe sciatic pain (10/10) in my left butt/leg. It started as an annoying pain and a month later was full blown sciatic pain that prevents me from sleeping without strong narcotics... I found out it was a disc extrusion after going to the ER and having a CT scan. It was suggested that I try seeing a pain medicine doctor for epidural steroid injections. I received two injections that worked beautifully for about two weeks and then the pain returned. I will go back for a third injection in a week but worry I will only get relief for a short period of time. Physical therapy was also prescribed but in my opinion, it makes the pain much worse than better. I've seen a neurosurgeon but am very hesitant to have surgery before exhausting all other options. As I write this, I have been awake for three hours due to pain. I can't lie down and therefore am pacing my house and wondering how I will get up in three hours to go to work. I'm desperate for something other than surgery. This is been going on now for four months. I'm wondering if I might still heal on my own. I ice constantly but I also have a toddler and I am constantly lifting and holding her.

Any advice or suggestions are greatly appreciated!


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 07/23/2014 - 11:12 PM
  • I also have an extruded disc (L5) and a 16 month old to take care of, which means I bend and lift over 30 pounds multiple times a day. I was going to physical therapy and taking Advil but neither was lowering the pain. Finally I had to hire a full time nanny for 12 hours a day until I could get my epidural spinal cortisone injection (I can't take the oral cortisone because I am still nursing my son). I just got the injection today and already feel 10% better. If this injection doesn't work, I am also facing surgery.
  • Hi Meg,

    I had a similar situation. Back in March 2014, I started to have unbearable sciatic pain in my right butt all the way down to the foot. I also had numbness, burning, tingling in foot and right shin and my leg felt like it was getting weak. I tried oral prednisone, chiropractic care, 3 Epidurals over a 2 month timeframe, massages, and 8 weeks of physical therapy. I did have an MRI done in early May and it showed I had an extruded herniated disc impinging L5 nerve root. The size of the extrusion was 12mm x 7mm. My pain went away after the third injection but the numbness, tingling, burning and weakness remained even while doing physical therapy. I decided to have surgery which was done. July 14th and am close to 3 weeks post op. For the most part I don't have pain, and still have numbness etc in leg and foot. Doc says nerves take time to heal so I am being patient and will be starting 8 weeks of physical therapy again next week. Hang in there, try to stay positive, and if conservative treatments don't work for you, you may want to consider surgery. It is helpful to start reading up and educating yourself on surgical approaches in parallel with conservative treatments to better prepare you if that is the route you decide to take. I made the decision to have surgery 4 months after conservative treatments to relieve the nerve impingement because I don't won't permanent damage to nerve. With that being said there's no gaurantee that I haven't already damaged the nerve permanently, but I felt the longer I waited, the worse off I could be.

  • I had a 19 mm extrusion that was found on my MRI this past February. I started to have a numb/tingly foot in November 2013, then I started to have glute soreness. It was originally thought that I had piriformis syndrome. I went to PT 3x a week for 2 months - did all the exercises and stretches I was told to do, they even had me on the traction bed each visit.

    Nothing worked. The pain kept increasing (pain in my glute, outer thigh, calf and foot) and I was put on all sorts of medications. I met with a neurosurgeon in May that said enough was enough, I had tried all conservative treatments it was time for surgery. I was in so much pain I said yes and we scheduled my surgery for July 2, as I am a teacher and we thought that I could recover during the summer break.

    On the May long weekend here, I collapsed and couldn't stand or walk anymore the pain was so significant. I called 911 twice in a week begging them to take me in for something to kill the pain. I was on 12 perocet a day and it was barely touching the pain. I was also on flexeril, valium, gabapentin - I even got a morphine shot at one point. I called my surgeon and said I needed the surgery now and he moved me up to May 27th. Which was great timing because on the 26th I started to lose control of my bladder......

    I am now 9.5 weeks post op and I have my life back. There are still some days were I feel some pain, but it is more muscle soreness and not the horrendous sciatic nerve pain. It is just soreness from me starting to use my muscles again. I am back in PT trying to get my strength back as my right leg is still very weak. I have residual numbness in my foot that may or may not go away. But I am hopeful. My post op report stated that my nerve was very compressed and swollen by the time they got to it.

    PM me if you want any more details, and good luck in your decision.
  • So sorry that you are suffering this agony, as I experience it too. I hope you get some relief very, very soon! Reading the size of tfduffy's & Tina's herniation made me wince with pain! My MRI just showed on Friday that my 3mm herniation, with annular tear at L5-S1 has worsened to a 9mm herniation & I am in constant agony! I also have "moderate to severe" spinal stenosis, s1 nerve compression, narrowing of the neural foramen & a bulge at L4-L5. Oh, & L5 vertebrae is shearing off to the side with movement! I have gone through every kind of non-invasive tx available - 5 esi's, 2 sets of 6 facet joint blocks, 2 bilateral 3 level rhizotomies, chiro, pt, pain management & Traditional Chinese Medicine during the past 19-20 months. Pain has gotten significantly worse during the last 1-2 months & become severe (10/10) during past 2.5 weeks. I too am facing surgery. Just waiting for consults & I'm terrified! I'm supposed to go have EMG, but I'm scared to death!
    I wish you all the best & quick relief from this suffering. The sciatic pain from lower back through buttock & down length of leg is sheer he%#!
    8/28/14 Discectomy, Laminectomy, Foraminotomy L5-S1
    9/15/15 Surgical Debridement of infected surgical incision & drain seroma; wound vac applied
    10/21/14 L5-S1 Osteomyelitis & Discitis; 10/23/14 Bone & Tissue Biopsy = MRSE
  • Thanks for all the feedback. I'm sorry to hear how much pain each of you are experiencing. Pain really takes over life.

    I had my 3rd injection Tuesday and didn't get much relief. I still have debilitating glute pain. I think the worst part is the muscle spasms, or whatever it is, in the mornings and during the night. I really miss sleep!

    I am starting to accept the fact that surgery may be in my near future.
  • L333777LL333777 Posts: 109
    edited 08/04/2014 - 4:31 PM
    Hi again MegTalV! I'm sorry to hear that you haven't gotten much relief yet from your most recent injection. Those spasms are torturous, I know. For me, an episode is triggered nearly every time I go from sitting or laying to standing. Getting out of bed in the morning is a special kind of he#% & I sometimes cannot put my leg done for a couple of minutes. It feels like something is grabbing the nerve and squeezing it to death, sending waves of ripping & burning pain from my left lower back, through my buttock & down the length of my leg to my ankle. I've tried to explain it to those around me, but never feel that words can aptly describe it. After my MRI on Friday, I was looking up some terminology online & found the following excerpt that I think is a pretty good description. I'm sure you can probably relate. Here goes: "The nastiness of sciatic pain was known to Shakespeare, who employed it as a curse ("Thou cold sciatica, cripple our senators, that their limbs may halt as lamely as their manners . . . "). "The pain darts through the parts with the rapidity of lightning up and down, cutting, tearing and burning with extreme violence, increased by slight contact, or gradually becoming permanent with a gouging or crushing character." (Romberg)." I wish you comfort and peace very quickly!
    8/28/14 Discectomy, Laminectomy, Foraminotomy L5-S1
    9/15/15 Surgical Debridement of infected surgical incision & drain seroma; wound vac applied
    10/21/14 L5-S1 Osteomyelitis & Discitis; 10/23/14 Bone & Tissue Biopsy = MRSE
  • L333777 that pretty much sums it up perfectly!

    I'm starting to wonder if anyone has ever experienced piriformis syndrome. I ask because most of my pain is in my left glute. I do have tingling and sometimes throbbing in my legs but my left glute is what keeps me awake at night and keeps me distracted by pain during the day. I've been reading a lot about piriformis syndrome and keep reading that it can occur due to a disc issue. The pain can feel just like sciatica because the muscle is right next to the sciatic nerve; if the piriformis gets inflamed, it can give a person the exact same symptoms as sciatica. I stretch and I stretch and it is always tight. I can stretch it out and two minutes later it is spasming and tight again.....which makes me wonder, is all of this due to this muscle? If so, what can be done about it OR will it heal on it's own?

    I also watched a video done by a PT that said that many people have disc issues and only some feel pain. So, I could still have a disc issue but it may not be the reason I feel constant pain. Instead, the piriformis muscle could be inflamed. I do remember the two times my back got worse - and they were both while I was RUNNING on the treadmill. I think piriformis is common with runners.

    Anyway, that's where I'm at but I have an MRI tonight to find out for sure. Still not going to rush into surgery because I'm not convinced that surgery will alleviate the pain, unless they can remove this muscle. I wonder if an injection into the muscle would help. I've also changed my diet completely. I've not touched sugar, flour, or dairy in a week (just eating fruits and vegetables and a little bit of fish) and I've been guzzling water, hoping it might naturally help with inflammation and give my body a chance to start healing naturally. Still not sleeping at night.

    Thoughts? Suggestions?

  • I've wondered about the same thing, but my dr has not mentioned it. Then again, I have not seen a dr since my MRI last Friday. I got a call saying that I could increase the dosage of pain med & they will document that I'm expected to run out early as a result. He also called in a script for a Medrol dose pack & said I need to get in to the neurosurgeon as soon as possible. He started me on Gabapentin at the appt a few days before the MRI, but I called & left a message today asking to change that to Topamax or Zonegran, as I'm having horrible heartburn all the time & some other gastrointestinal side effects- not to mention, it is not really helping with the nerve pain. Does your dr have you on something for nerve pain? It might be worth looking into. I've heard a lot of people say that it helped tremendously with that kind of pain. It's just a matter of finding which one works for you. How are the results of your recent MRI? I hope you get some relief & rest soon!
    8/28/14 Discectomy, Laminectomy, Foraminotomy L5-S1
    9/15/15 Surgical Debridement of infected surgical incision & drain seroma; wound vac applied
    10/21/14 L5-S1 Osteomyelitis & Discitis; 10/23/14 Bone & Tissue Biopsy = MRSE
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