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Herniated L4/L5 looks worse/feels better?

Lllacyann70LLllacyann70 Posts: 3
edited 10/24/2014 - 3:28 PM in Lower Back Pain
Hi! Hello! First time poster here. I'm 26 I used to be very active in competitive sports, I definitely haven't turned into a couch potato. I am still active moderately.

My story begins on May 25th of this year. I woke up to some bad butt pain. About a month later I was playing softball(still have right side butt pain going down my leg to my calf) and I injured my back. Causing the pain to extend up to my lower back and all the way down to the tip of my big toe. I went and got an MRI (my chiropractor ordered me to do this because of how much pain I was in) which showed a 8.something mm herniation. I went to a neurosurgeon and he said although it is a significant size, that I should try conservative treatment. And I did. Around this time I also development issues with my BM. I couldn't "go" as easily, frequently, the size changed.

So I tried physical therapy for a month and a half - they had me doing traction table, soft tissue stuff, that electro therapy tingly thing, ice, heat, and simple work outs. The only thing that happened was the pain went from one side to the other and then slowly migrated back to the original side.

Okay so let's faster ward to the important stuff.

After hurting myself even worse about a month ago, I changed a lot of things drastically. I feel about 75% better. However I already had an MRI scheduled and I wanted to still go get that done and low and behold it showed that my herniation is even bigger. So much bigger that my radiologist called my neurosurgeon concerned. So the next day after MRI (I atill feel 75% better btw) I stroll into my neuro office and he is like ready to schedule surgery. He has my MRI pulled up, expecting me to be in all this pain. And I mean I still have pain, but I thought I felt pretty dang fantastic!

He's really worried. He's never seen a herniation this big without having to do surgery. Now I'm worried.
Have you had experience with your herniation getting worse but you feel less pain?? What's happening? he told me to call him the second (if it happens) that I lose control over my bowels or bladder. He is worried about my lack of BMs though too.

A large herniation can cause a condition called Cauda Equina syndrome, which is a surgical emergency. With you already having issues prior to this enlarged herniation, any worsening of it can be onset of CES and it is important that if you can't tell you need to go, can't go , or can't control holding it to get to a bathroom that you let him know of ANY changes. http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/cauda-equina-syndrome
Yes, it is entirely possible not to feel pain, even though the herniation has worsened, since the nerves in the canal can be completely occluded......not having pain can be as bad a sign as increased pain.


  • If you don't mind me asking what did you change that led you to start feeling better. Last weekend I had a coughing fit and I thing it made my back so much worse. I have limited mobility on my right side if I even start to stretch that hamstring i have a very intense pain in my glute so stretching is out of the question. I am waiting on a pain shot and I'm preying that gives me some relief .
  • Greg1978 said:
    If you don't mind me asking what did you change that led you to start feeling better.
    Hi! As I've seen with the MRI it didn't actually fix the cause of the problem. But for the pain I started with massage, I had a very bad flare up and my right hip was stuck up higher than my left and I couldn't stand straight up. I couldn't walk more than about 5 ft without stopping. So massage, ice, heat, a tinse unit(sp?), rest, anti inflammatories. Once I was able to move enough I started using a lacrosse ball every day and did some myofacial release. I used a single ball around my buttock area, it's very painful but so much relief after I was done. I also used the single ball on the my back as well and my hip flexors. I also had a double lacrosse ball that was stuck together that I would roll up and down my spine (not letting the balls touch my spine, but my spine in between the two balls). I also switched my mattress to a very firm mattress and started drinking lots of water.

    Again, that didn't fix the issue but it addresses the pain pretty well. Hope you find some relief.
  • Spiny_MaloneSSpiny_Malone Posts: 225
    edited 10/26/2014 - 10:39 AM
    I would want to know if the existing disc can stay as is. What are the odds of it moving and causing damage. Should you have surgery anyway? I'd get a second opinion also...
    It very well may be fine. Would be nice to know though.
  • I'm with Spiney. I have permanent nerve damage. If I could turn back time I'd be on this forum being advised to get 2nd & 3rd opinions & dong it! Advise like that could of changed my journey.
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • I ended up getting surgery 9 days ago. Very glad I did it.
  • Hi,

    I found your post especially interesting as I experienced something similar and also ended up having surgery. I wish the medical community, that means physiotherapists, chiropractors, doctors, & orthopedic specialists all understood that saying or even actually feeling, "better" does not always mean a person actually is better. Pardon my little vent here, but shouldn't they all know that? In fact, a bulging disc can in fact cause more pain than a HUGE herniated disc (because of what nerve the disc touches, also known as a PINCHED NERVE!!). It makes sense, it is logical ... so why aren't medical professionals warning us? PREVENTION is key.

    You went to see a physiotherapist, no doubt many people told you that would help. It helped me numerous times. But not the last time. I told my physiotherapist, "I feel a bit better." That did NOT mean I was PAIN FREE. But I was made to feel like I was just out of shape!! Well, she decided I should try the elliptical machine. And I'm the idiot that listened. Well, your physiotherapist manipulated your body. The part of your disc that was herniated moved slightly, hitting a different nerve. That explains why your pain changed from one side of your body to the other.

    My advice to all people who ever read this. Do whatever you can to REST. Take anti-inflammatories. Maybe even try a steroid injection, it could help you avoid surgery (from what I've read/heard). Once you feel better, go to a physiotherapist to STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE to prevent further injury. Do not TRUST ALL physiotherapists, they have a their standard, "do these exercises", etc. etc. A few of them are simply "running a business" and want your money.

    NEWSFLASH: THOSE EXERCISES ARE NOT A CURE!! (Yes, they help many people. They also harm many people!!)

    I hope reading this helps other people avoid surgery.
    PS - You BM probably changed because of changes in your level of activity and any pain meds you took!!
  • My dtr-in-law is scheduled for this surgery very soon. It's an L4-5 with fusion, and because of the osteoporosis her drs., ortho and neuro surgeons, have mentioned cement also being used. Has anyone had this kind of surgery, and how have the results been? She is very frightened, as different drs have told her to expect results ranging from only 20% improvement to 80%. (I've had the laminectomy only, about 12 years ago, and it was good for a few years. Am now in my 80s.)
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