(THIS IS A LONG STORY BUT IS A GOOD READ FOR THOSE LIKE US)
This is my 1st post on the forums and am new to the groups. Here is my story. When I was 19, I was diagnosed with an L4-L5 herniated disc. My symptoms were mild at the time, with only a bit of sciatica-type leg pain. The doctor I saw (not sure what type of doc he was at the time) recommended surgery but being 19, I of course got the hell out there and never went back!
So I just lived with it and was still very active. I could play basketball, golf, baseball, run, do everything I loved to do any time I wanted. I had the occasional flare-up which was well managed with physiotherapy, McKenzie exercises. Never went to see a doctor for the pain.
When I turned 30, I had a bad episode where I collapsed after having played with my band one night. I made it home but was sidelined for about a week with my hips crooked, as I'm sure you all know what I mean! I recovered and thought nothing more of it. The next year, I was on my honeymoon with my wife and our last day there, I felt it 'go'. Man, was I ever in pain! We flew home and I had to miss 2 months of work because I was in so much pain and had really bad hip displacement. It took a long time to recover. Physio and/or chiro didn't seem to help much. Finally went back to work and seemed back to 'normal'. I was still ok for activities but did have to be a bit more careful. Golf and baseball were still quite possible with not much pain. This is where the 'fun' started!
I started having more and more flare-ups with the main concern being the back pain. Not really any leg pain if any. Episodes were managed and lasted only a few days. However, getting out of cars after being in them for anything over 15 minutes or standing from sitting was quite painful and took a few steps until I corrected. I'd have to lie down at work and stretch several times a day just to make it through my days. But I still had lots of time where I was pretty much fine. Again, no leg pain.
Had an MRI in 2010 which showed the disc herniation still, but was not compressing the nerve too much. It was just a decent herniated disc that was conservatively managed.
Getting close to Christmas 2012, I slipped on some baby powder in my master bedroom ensuite, I didn't fall but because I held myself up and my feet went a different way, I ended up on the floor screaming in pain. I was by myself. I actually had a massage appointment that night so I went. She took good care of me. I went home. About a week later, on Christmas morning, I was on the floor handing out presents to my kids when I sneezed. OMG! I was in complete lockdown and could NOT MOVE AN INCH! My leg was on fire, back spasms, just absolutely awful. It took about a week until I regained mobility and stared physio again. But in agony for a few weeks. I slowly recovered, leg pain slowing down but still there. Had another MRI in January which showed the herniated disc was worse than 2010. I got better by April 1st. Still painful but was somewhat decent with some leg pain intermittent, physio twice a week, acupuncture.
On April 5, 2013, I went to see a neurosurgeon who told me that we could continue with a conservative approach, or a microdiscectomy could be an option. He wasn't pushy at all and told me it was really my decision. He told me that the outcome for these surgeries is quite good and that odds are, I would be fine if I chose to do it. I chose to sign the waiver form but told him I wanted the summer to pond it over. Well, I guess my body didn't want to wait!
2 days later, I reached for a pair of socks about waist high and 'click'! I felt it go again. Not major, but it just got worse and worse throughout the day. Hips distorted again, leg pain, etc... The next morning, I woke up and painfully made my way to the bathroom. I did my business and then tried to 'clean up' without being too graphic here. I felt the worse pain of my life! I collapsed immediately. Screaming my head off! Kids and wife came in the bathroom. Again, I couldn't move. I thought I was going to pass out. My wife called the ambulance. The paramedics gave me Fentanyl which might as well have been sugar water! Other than making me dizzy and nauseated, it did nothing for me. 4 paramedics managed to put me on a stretcher and take me to the hospital. They gave me the max dosage of Fentanyl in that time. I waited the day on a gurney until they admitted me and took me to the neuro wing of the hospital. They checked me out but we all knew what the problem was.
So my surgeon came to see me the next morning, to his surprise of course! So he said let's wait a day and see how things go. I was still in quite a bit of pain despite the Dilaudid and Tylenol I was on. So we decided on doing the surgery. I just wanted this thing to be over and done with and resume my life. He made me feel like it was a smart decision I felt confident he could fix me being that he was basically the top dog at the Hospital in his field.
Surgery went great and he said it was one of the biggest herniated discs he had ever seen and removed. He also said he did a mild facetectomy and laminotomy on top of the micro-D. He said the MRI I took 3 months earlier was no indication as to the damage it was doing. I stayed in the hospital for a few days. I felt good. I walked quite a bit, up and down stairs with the therapists. Felt good. My hips were straight! No leg pain, a bit of tingling but they said this was normal after decompression.
I went home. The next day, I went to my daughter's baptism which was 30 seconds from my house. We were there for an hour and I had my fancy rollator with me. I was tired but was ok. Not much pain other than surgery pain. Got back home, was fine. Went to bed. The next morning, I strained a little bit to pass a bowel movement but was in control and great posture. Did no hurt my back at all. I walked back to my bed. Got back into my bed like they showed me using the barrel roll. The instant I lifted my 2nd foot off the ground, I felt a pinch! I kept rolling and laid on my back. I started to cry! I knew I had just hurt it again. Called the doc and went back to see him a week later. They did an MRI about 3 weeks post-op and showed that I the disc had re-herniated again, 5 days post-op. Also showed a bit of mild facet hypertrophy. I was floored! I had so much hope for this surgery! There as also a mild disc bulge at L5-S1.
He said the hernia was better than it was in 2010. Which I was sort of ok with, given I didn't have much of a choice. I kept walking every day and got stronger. Leg pain subsided and actually felt decent. I could sit, walk, move around pretty well. I got the green light to resume playing baseball which I did, mind you only playing 1st base and not hitting or running. I did well, playing about 15 games. Nothing crazy. Played 2 rounds of golf and other than a bit of tightness, I was pretty much pain-free!
Late September came, I went for a nap, I was feeling ill. I woke up feeling really sore. And it just got worse over that day, until I got a bit of leg pain for a few days. It cleared up, but since then, I started having facet joint pain (which is what I thought I was having anyways). Felt like bones rubbing together depending on the move I did. Saw the doc again and another MRI in Dec 2013. It showed the disc wasn't as bad as before but was still a left paracentral protrusion and a slight contact on the L5 left and right nerve roots and in position to touch the thecal sac.
The difference now though was that there was moderate loss of disc height at that level, as well as moderate facet joint hypertrophy and some ligamentum flavum hypertrophy. Also, L5-S1 did not have any bulge anymore, which was good, but was showing mild facet hypertrophy as well as L3-L4 showing the same. Disc was fine.
So, now I kept on with physio, and the facet pain subsided and I felt decent. I started playing baseball in May this year, hitting and running the 1st game of the year but I stopped because I felt a twinge every time I ran where the hip joint starts. Playing 1B was fine with me and I could do it pretty much pain free. I was taking Vimovo though (Naproxen and Nexium combined) on and off, and am also taking Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements. I have slowed the Vimovo because I don't want stomach ulcers on top of this!
On July 10, I was on my couch, did a false maneuver which led me to feeling it 'go' again. Another setback I thought! "I just made it worse again" I thought. The facet joint pain came back. I'm seeing a chiro who uses the Thompson technique which is really awesome. He doesn't adjust any lumbar on me though. Only cervical and does muscle work on my lumbar and sacrum. He now thinks I may have an SI joint problem. Probably from compensating for the lumbar injury. My hamstrings are like iron rods and my flexibility sucks. I'm working on this with my physio. I've got now what feels like piriformis pain on the left side and have pain in my foot. At first, I thought when I tweaked it, that I injured L5-S1 because of where the leg pain was, but now my foot is predominently in pain at where L5 would be. I've got an MRI on Sep 3 and I hope nothing has gotten worse and this is just a flare up.
But because now I have loss of disc height, hypertrophy is setting in, which we can't get rid of. I am soooooo regretting getting this surgery in the first place.
So what are your thoughts on my experience? Was I at the absolute breaking point when I had the surgery? Could I have healed again? I know no one can tell me with any certainty. I guess deep down, I know I wouldn't have gotten any better and every episode was worse and worse.
Can I get this hypertrophy under control and stop it from getting worse? I want to avoid a fusion of course! Can I get to being pain-free again? Any positive thoughts are welcome!
I just needed to tell my story to people who understand this. My wife has been good and strong with this but I've put her in tough situations where she has had to pick up my slack when I'm down and out.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story.