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L5/S1 disc bulge with nerve root compression - What can I do?

msij280mmsij280 Posts: 5
Hi,

I am 22 years old and was diagnosed with multiple disc bulges but primarily a broad based disc bulge at L5/S1 with nerve root compression 1 month and a half ago. I went to see a doctor and was taking pain killers (Ibuprofen then Voltaren) and seeing a PT twice a week. It was going well and the pain was decreasing and I was able to do most things. I still wasn't lifting weights or training hard.

All of a sudden, 5 days ago my sciatica started getting unbearably painful to the point where I could not sit down and walking was painful. I had an MRI and it says I only have the disc bulge at L5/S1 now and still have nerve root compression. I didn't change anything for it to become worse, which is confusing me. I am waiting to see a specialist now but I have to wait for the appointment.

Since 5 days ago, I have been waking up in my sleep because of the pain. I can't sit down because the pain becomes unbearable and walking is incredibly uncomfortable. I have been in bed all week and it sucks.

Does anyone know what I can do to help relieve the pain and improve the healing process? I am on stronger NSAIDs now and I have 2 hot water baths a day, heat pack every couple of hours.

Any help is appreciated. This pain is debilitating and is killing my life.
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Comments

  • LizLiz Posts: 7,904

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • msij280mmsij280 Posts: 5
    edited 11/30/2014 - 5:56 AM
    The pain has gotten to a point where it is painful to walk, I can't sit down and lying down settles the pain eventually. Everything I've read has said that I should avoid bed rest for long periods of time. But I'm not sure what to do.

    If i try walk I'm in quite a bit of pain, so I can't go to work. I am still going to the physio twice a week and it helps for a few hours before getting painful again. I'm still waiting to see the specialist.

    If anyone can give me some advice in the mean time on the best way to rest my back I would be most grateful. This has put my out of action for a week and it's starting to make me feel like EDITED
  • hoggsterhhoggster ScotlandPosts: 51
    You sound like I was in the start, do nothing read my post , if your doc sais do nothing and rest I was told I cant get physio so ive not for once ive done as im told as its a serious condtion ,if you are that worried go back to doc or hospital and seek advice try and stay positive I know its hard good luck
  • Typically if you are being treated and something changes (for the worse), a PT will send you back to the doctor.
    Did they suggest heat? I'm only asking b/c in my experience heat adds to inflammation and I found more relief with icing.
    Did they suggest anything for when you are in bed? Like putting a pillow under you knees if you are on your back?

    Did you do anything to aggravate your back? Sounds like you used to lift weights and may have been feeling well - if you felt well and over did some repetitive activity (even gardening, or sweeping) you may have annoyed your back to cause inflammation.

    Sounds like you will want to talk to your doctor.
  • So the pain has ever so slightly decreased over the last 2.5 weeks (from a 9/10 to a 7/10).

    Heat tends to help more than ice for me. The doc and PT said that it's because the muscles around the disc are relaxing under the heat and the area is more oxygenated.

    Yep, I rotate between my side and my back.

    I am still in no position to walk very far (more than 20 min) or sit for very long (more than 3-5 min).

    I saw the neurosurgeon today and he basically gave me 2 options. Get and epidural injection and see how it goes for the next few weeks or to get a microdiscectomy ASAP.

    He said that after 6 weeks the chances of conservative recovery tends to fall and closer to 3 months is even less likely. Based on the fact that I've been in some sort of pain for the last 2.5 months, he gave me those to options and told me to consider it carefuly. He said that surgery is a last resort but if the pain is unbearable and you've seen little sign of improvement then start to consider surgery as a possible option.

    I just wanted to get the opinion of any one of you guys. Surgery or Injection? Why? Anyone who picked injection and has gotten better or had to have surgery anyway.

    Thanks for the support. It helps! :)
  • I had the injection first. I'm not sure it did anything and I needed surgery BUT I wanted to try the conservative measures before going under the knife. I had a l5s1 bulge pressing on the nerve that I left undiagnosed for about 18 months. I only investigated it after sitting down became an issue. From diagnosis to surgery was just under a year for me.

    I know people who've had success with the injection & others that have had success with a discectomy.

    Good luck,
    Veronica
    Microdiscectomy L5S1 January 2014
    Microdiscectomy L5S1 March 2014
    Fusion L5S1 11th August 2014
  • Have had epidermal for the debilitating lower back pain! Only last a few weeks, only thing that eases a little is laying flat! Have resorted to walker for getting around! I have bulging disk in lower back! I also have a bone spur with mild arthritis in upper back left rib cage , with pressure hurts in my right front side! Not made connection medically yet, but with both issues it's painful! Any suggestions! Thanks
  • I did a lot of research on sciatica before going in to see an ortho doc. In our discussion, he confirmed my research that the disc bulge/nerve compression doesn't cause pain directly. The nerve compression merely blocks blood flow and prevents your nerves from expelling byproducts and prevents them from breathing. With the irritation that comes from a nerve compression, comes inflammation, comes hypersensitivity, comes more pain.

    So what does this mean for you? The untreated disc bulge slowly caused your nerves to dysfunction and cause you pain.

    Good luck.
  • shez1325sshez1325 Posts: 49
    edited 12/28/2014 - 1:07 AM
    Hey I had Injection first then Surgery. My pain slowly got worse, ended up doing physio, got a little relief then it got worse to the point I could hardly walk. I chose surgery as Cortisone ( injection) is a good drug and I had no relief from it, My Physio and GP both thought I needed surgery, and I believed my body was not going to be able to fix this on its own plus I had been told the longer you leave it the more likely you can end up with permanent nerve damage.

    My physio has said she has had patients who have had success with both injections alone and surgery.

    Good luck. Keep asking questions.
  • if the nerve root is compressed or impinged, then the injections can not do anything to relieve that compression/impingement.
    Staying in bed, is the worst thing you can do for back pain.......resting a bit is okay, staying in bed, is not. Walking is the best thing, limiting sitting and standing in one place for no more than 15 minutes at a time is usually the recommendation.
    Some insurances require that you at least try an injection to see if it will relieve the pain, and trying one isn't a bad idea.......but depending on how badly the nerve is impinged, usually determines what the surgeon recommends.
  • hi i suffered for over 4 years b4 my doctors decided to send me 4 a MRI scan i was in agony ev single day, i was finally operated on my L4/L5 discs things were fine for a coup;e of weeks untill the dreaded pains retuned i had another MRI scan which showed bulging L5/S1 so had another operation that 2 in less than 6 months apart, things were no better only to be told that i have now got permanant nerve damage, i keep getting really bad calf muscle spasms which can last upto 30 mins or more also a pins n needles, tinlgling effect in my right thigh for the last few days im now getting like a burning sensation same as i do in my thigh on my upper left arm it also pains when i try to raise my arm, does anyone have any idea what thsi can be or is it all related??? looks like im gonna be in pain 4 the rest ofmy days :-(
    shez1325 said:
    Hey I had Injection first then Surgery. My pain slowly got worse, ended up doing physio, got a little relief then it got worse to the point I could hardly walk. I chose surgery as Cortisone ( injection) is a good drug and I had no relief from it, My Physio and GP both thought I needed surgery, and I believed my body was not going to be able to fix this on its own plus I had been told the longer you leave it the more likely you can end up with permanent nerve damage.

    My physio has said she has had patients who have had success with both injections alone and surgery.

    Good luck. Keep asking questions.
  • i also tried the injections over the years 5 in total which did no good
    mazzababe said:
    hi i suffered for over 4 years b4 my doctors decided to send me 4 a MRI scan i was in agony ev single day, i was finally operated on my L4/L5 discs things were fine for a coup;e of weeks untill the dreaded pains retuned i had another MRI scan which showed bulging L5/S1 so had another operation that 2 in less than 6 months apart, things were no better only to be told that i have now got permanant nerve damage, i keep getting really bad calf muscle spasms which can last upto 30 mins or more also a pins n needles, tinlgling effect in my right thigh for the last few days im now getting like a burning sensation same as i do in my thigh on my upper left arm it also pains when i try to raise my arm, does anyone have any idea what thsi can be or is it all related??? looks like im gonna be in pain 4 the rest ofmy days :-(
    shez1325 said:
    Hey I had Injection first then Surgery. My pain slowly got worse, ended up doing physio, got a little relief then it got worse to the point I could hardly walk. I chose surgery as Cortisone ( injection) is a good drug and I had no relief from it, My Physio and GP both thought I needed surgery, and I believed my body was not going to be able to fix this on its own plus I had been told the longer you leave it the more likely you can end up with permanent nerve damage.

    My physio has said she has had patients who have had success with both injections alone and surgery.

    Good luck. Keep asking questions.
  • hoggsterhhoggster ScotlandPosts: 51
    On 5/12/14 I got my disectomy after my symptoms changed to not being able to pass urine they gave me other mri bulge was still as big as sept scan now I feel sharpe pain just under wound site about 2 inch and pain still down leg I start physio on 14 January and hopefully back to work but im a landscape gardener so will have to wait and see
  • I have had two injections, only lasted a couple of days, I had one injection between discs and on in the lumbar, I was in a car wreck back in September, I have seven millimeter bulge in s-1 and l-4 and 5 I see doctor this week for next treatment routine, I didn't want to do surgery, so went shot route but no, luck, my pa wanted me to do fusion in beginning, but am leaning towards invasive disectiomy
  • Hi guys,

    I want to thank everyone who has replied, posted their own experiences, offered suggestions and those that gave their support. I just wanted to share my experience with anyone else who may see this in the future, because I know how much googling and reading I did when I was in the worst of it.

    So after a couple of months of incredibly annoying but just bearable back pain (with sciatic pain), my injury took a turn for the worst. I woke up in agonising pain in the middle of the night. I tried to walk to the freezer to get an ice pack but almost collapsed after a few steps. After a struggle, I managed to ice it long enough to be able to take pain relieving medication and get back to my bed. Following this, I spent 3-4 weeks unable to walk or sit (sitting being the most excruciating pain I've ever felt).

    After a painful trip to my GP and multiples scans, I got a referral to see a neurosurgeon who basically explained everything and outlined the three options I had. 1) Get a microdiscectomy and spend several months recovering but with likely relief from pain, 2) Get an epidural injection and see how the treatment goes (with the possibility of it working from days to months) or 3) Let my body try to heal on its own. His recommendation was options 1 or 2, based on prior evidence suggesting that after 3 months, the chance of a disc herniation healing was very low. After long thought, I decided to go with the epidural injection and see how I fared.

    The epidural injection left me a little sore for a day but then I had noticed a little bit of relief. It wasn't life changing but it was enough for me to stop taking pain killers and to start walking a little. The day after the injection, I was only able to walk for 4-5 minutes at a time before needing rest. I did this 10-15 times a day. By the end of the week I was able to walk for 15-20 minutes at a time, albeit slowly. By the 3 week mark I was no longer in unbearable pain and could walk for an hour. Sitting was still uncomfortable but no longer painful. This is when I resumed going to physiotherapy and was recommended a chiropractor. The chiropractor was very helpful in my case (I was hesitant at the start, but this specific chiro came highly recommended from numerous sources). He would start with a heat pack, massage therapy, acupuncture and then gently stretches using the table. At no point have I undergone manipulation, as he advised against it for my injury. A lot of the strengthening exercises I was given was based on improving abdominal and lower back strength, but tailored to suit my weaknesses.

    After a month of chiro, physio, strengthening exercises, constant walking and swimming, I was finally able to start driving again. Now, 3 months later I am back at work and getting along with as normal a life as I can. As advised, I am still avoiding bending, twisting and lifting in any manner, however it is so good to be back to doing something. I am no longer in pain. Long sitting periods can become tiresome but I avoid them as much as I can. The only remnants of my injury are my extreme lack of flexibility and occasional neural tension. I am continuing with spinal flossing exercises to relieve nerve related tension.

    I want everyone out there who is reading this to know there is hope. Don't give up. Seek as much advice as you can. Try and go for a slow walk if you can. I read a book called 'Low Back Disorders' by Stuart McGill and it did provide an insight into some of the issues and things you can do. If anyone out there has any questions, please send them to me. I am more than happy to try answer what I can. However, just keep in mind that we are all different and what worked for me may not work exactly the same for you. Just keep strong!
  • HI guys

    I just want to ask that l5-s1 disc can block blood supply to left leg.
    I have not back pain I just got pain when I walk or standing some time.
    I have MRI and my OT doctor suggest to meet with neoro surgeon. I m waiting my appointment.
    What can precautions and actions should I do.
    Plz reply
  • Hi,

    Not sure if you still need this information but I will tell you anyway.

    The bulging disc will not block blood supply to the leg but it will make it harder for oxygenated blood to reach the disc and for it to heal. I would recommend talking to a physiotherapist and discuss your options. You should ensure you have proper posture while standing, sitting and when you try to pick things up from the floor. Avoid bending directly, you can squat and pick things up if you need to (this includes lifting). Also avoid twisting.

    When sitting and working, try to get up and go for a quick walk every 30 minutes to an hour. This will ensure you have good blood flow and also relieve excess pressure that you put on your spine when sitting.

    Other than this, I would wait for the neurosurgeon to give you a professional medical opinion.

    Hope you get better soon!
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,940
    Hello mfaisalsheikh !
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    Sue
    Spine-Health Moderator
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • That is how I started out almost 10 years ago. My leg completely went dead in the street. Went to see the doctor because I was having the pinching nerve for 4 months. She gave me steroids and ordered a Mri. Needless to say they almost killed me and I spent 8 days in the hospital. I couldn't walk my senses were off. It took me 3 hours to get my brain to understand time to get dressed. I was so afraid. I found out I have spinal stenosis. 2 weeks later I was having surgery my first laminectomy. Two years later I had another one. 2 years later I had fusion. Now I have failed back syndrome on top of nerve damage in the left leg. Sciatica all over again I need two more discs fused. It's no fun. 
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