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Herniated disc L5/S1 at 22 and lost

kk515kkk515 Posts: 3
edited 12/26/2014 - 9:06 PM in Lower Back Pain
Hello everyone, I am new to this site and was relieved to see that others know what it is like to deal with back pain. I am sharing my story in hopes that
others may be able to relate and offer info from their experiences. I am a 22yr. old that graduated from college in May. I swam on the collegiate
level for my four years and injured my back during my junior year. I was at our conference meet practicing diving off the blocks. In mid air I bent
slightly at the hips to enter the water. For the first time ever when I did this I had a sharp pain in my back. When I got to the end of the
pool I got out and tried to walk around. I immediately started to have a pins and needles feeling from my lower back down to my feet.

I somehow managed to swim through it for three days until the end of the season. I went to the team spine surgeon, MRI said I had a herniated disc at L5\S1 that was 13mm. I got 2 sets of ESIs.they did not work. I then went to PT for 3 months and had traction. None of this helped, so I was given another ESI that did not work.

My senior year started, I was given muscle relaxers, prescription antiinflammatories, and gabapentin and told to swim through it.
In December I had another ESI and MRI with no improvement. I was told to finish my season and come back in two months to have a fusion. In May I got a second opinion from another ortho. He sent me to pain management. I had 3 nerve root blocks between this past May to September. I had no improvement,
And was sent back to the ortho.I was then sent to another spine pain management Dr. He did 2 sets of nerve root blocks at S1. They did not work. I had another MRI last week. It said that the herniation is still present with a annular ligament tear.

At this point I don't know what to do, I'm still in pain with the pins/needles, and my feet burn all the time. I continue to have muscle spams as well.
I was told not to get a fusion by the second ortho because I would need more later on in life as a result. I am stuck and don't know which direction to take. I have applied to grad school to become a PT so I need to get this solved/managed better so I can move on with my career and life.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 12/27/2014 - 4:20 AM
    consults with more surgeons. It is important to ask as many questions as you can think of, and to ask why they are or are not recommending any particular procedure......what outcome they expect, what type of surgery or other treatment and why....None of the surgeons have recommended a discectomy? I am not sure why they would suggest a fusion surgery, which is normally done for instability, rather than doing a discectomy or micordiscectomy instead.
  • KK515 i myself got injured when i was 20 years old. At that time i myself was very athletic. I would suggest in a sincere friendly way to get into another career. Yes i know it sucks, I've had the same symptoms as you the ones you described. These symptoms do get better depending with what procedure you decide to get. PM me when you get back online so we can chat.
  • Thank you so much for everyone giving feedback. The pain management fellowship doc called and said that he would consult with the head MD to see what the next should would be: percutaneous disc decompression vs open discetomy. I've started doing my own research to see the pros/con's, outcomes, etc for each. Again thank you, this site is wonderful.
  • Please get multiple opinions! I'm so sorry the ESI did nothing to relieve your pain. I would get second and third opinions as well. When I herniated my disc I went to about 3-4 doctors. since they all had the same opinion I knew I was for surgery. So far I have not had the surgery but I did get significant improvement of function and pain from the ESI thank goodness.

    I do not think you entirely have to limit your career decisions at this point. I do know several people who have had microdiscectomies and have returned to similar careers that involve a lot of standing and walking and lifting things. BUT, it is something to think about as your progress- as in PT there is not much variety. (I am a nurse, and for years worked Emergency and ICU. I now do a desk job processing data- which I actually got prior to my crazy back injury. In nursing we have a lot of options, but in PT there aren't a lot of desk jobs that I see....maybe I don't know.)

    Thing about not having a fusion because you MAY need more later in life is a bit of a sticky thing. You MAY need more later, but right now you have been living for it sounds like over a year with pins and needles sensation and continued problems with pain. I think it is worth exploring a surgical fix. Just my thoughts.
  • I also say get more opinions and have to agree that you may want to look at other career options going forward to protect your spine. Physical therapy is a very physical job and IMO puts you at a greater chance of having chronic back problems. Personally I've had 2 microdiscectomies and I'm now likely facing another surgery down the road. My neurosurgeon told me to wait out my current flare as the fusion would be the next step for me. It seems like you have exhausted many options for pain relief/control so I'd probably go ahead with the microdiscectomy. Remember that surgery does not always make things better. My surgeon said last evening if you can manage the pain, I'd wait it out.

    As far as careers go, I'm a Nurse Practitioner that works in an outpatient primary care office. Prior to this, I did bedside nursing in a hospital. I went back to earn my degree after my initial back injury and I'm so glad I did otherwise I would have to leave nursing all together. Good luck!!
    Microdiscectomy L5/S1 2010
    Revision microdiscectomy after reherniation L5/S1 2014
  • Hi = I'm really sorry you are going through this. I have had back pain as I can remember since my early 20's and I'm now 40. I have 2 fractures, L5-S1. I had fusion with cage last February. It didn't work as of yet. The pain is different now. I forged through as you are. College, worked in business, and then have opened 3 businesses over the last 10 years. I have a 5 year old daughter and the most amazing husband. I waited, and waited, and waited. I thought I knew best. No, I'm not getting surgery. If you are to the point, where it's opiate taking time. It's time to consider surgery. It won't get better, it will get worse. Your health comes first before grad school, job, everything. If you don't put your health first, you will lose everything from the pain. You are worthy of being healthy and a career can wait. You have plenty of time. Get at least 4, 5 opinions. You need to confirm the operation multiple times, and you must have a confident doctor. They are doing a lot of things now. Stem cells - non invasive surgeries. If you have surgery now, it might not mean other surgeries. Science is moving fast. You are an obvious driver in your life. I am so sorry this has happened to you. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer or help. You are so young, yes. But going through life in pain, is so hard. Especially a very drven one. Best, B
  • Hello and thank you for the advice. I received a call from the MD and he wants to do a percutaneous disc decompression. I have been researching and have some reservations about the procedure. I am defiantly going to get another opinion. I know everyone is different but was just wondering if anyone has had the percutaneous disc decompression. Thank you :)
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