I am a 46 yr old female who slipped on 2 steps 3 months ago, and to stop myself from falling more I grabbed the rail, and my lower back really wrenched itself. I was stiff and sore but figured some Motrin and time and I would be ok. Six weeks later I was at urgent care because the sciatica pain was so bad. X-Rays showed severe arthritis in my lower back (from car accident 24 years ago) and slipped disc. I saw a pain managment doctor who ordered an MRI which showed 2 slipped discs (L3 and L4). He said L3 appears to have been slipped for many years and there's a lot of degenerative issues there. 3 epidural/steroid shots and another 6 weeks later and I am no better.
I saw a neurosurgeon this week who confirmed the slipped discs, severe arthritis and he ordered 2 more X-Rays, one while I was bending forward and one while I was bending backwards. Before he said anything even I could see that in both shots one disc keeps going in the opposite direction of all of the other discs.
The doctor is pretty conservative and wants me to try 6 weeks of physical therapy, if that doesn't work the next step is spinal fusion with these horrid looking metal rods to go on either side of the discs. He is conservative, but in his voice I swear he wasn't sounding too convinced that the physical therapy was going to do much for me, but he wants to try something before jumping right to the fusion.
I'm a pretty physical person (I've run 4 marathons, although I am out of shape now because I'm too scared to be on my feet for too long now because it hurts too badly by the end of the day if I am) and I need to carry heavy trunks for my job (30 lbs or so) which I am doing, but not happily right now. The sciatica is annoying and sore, and I've been told many times that I must have a high tolerance of pain...so I just deal with it (I take one Percocet and Lorzone at night, otherwise one Naprosyn during the day), but what bothers me the most is the shaky feeling while standing, like it wouldn't take much to tap my legs in the right spot to make me fall down, I hate it!
So realistically what are the odds of physical therapy helping something like this? I need to mentally gear up to this if there is a high chance of needing surgery. What is recovery like from something like that? What are the odds I could ever run again? Any information or thoughts would greatly be appreciated. Sorry this is so long.