Hello Spine-Health. I am a 21 y/o active male college student. I've had sciatica for eight months now in my left leg, and I feel like it is slowly getting worse by the month. These last two in particular suck.
I got my MRI a week and a half ago where my parents live, showing that I have a herniated disc at L5/S1. I recently had to change doctors to the area where I attend school, and I had an appointment with my new doctor earlier.
He was very understanding, but still against getting surgery done. He referred me to a physical therapist, but I refuted that since I saw one two months ago when my sciatic pain skyrocketed. He also referred me to a neurosurgeon who I will call as soon as I can (forgot the documents with the number earlier today ugh), but he strongly hinted that they won't go through with the surgery.
The idea is that I have a "moderate" case of sciatica, but even this level of sciatica is very painful. It's "moderate" in the sense that I don't have symptoms such as numbness in the toes, weakness in the leg, lower back pain is absent, and I have control of my bowel movements. However, I don't want to have to wait to this level where a rush to the ER would be required. At the same time, my sciatica can still be very painful. I'm a student so I can't avoid sitting for lectures, midterms, and studying -- sometimes hours at a time.
From looking through past topics on spine-health, it's true that my case of sciatica isn't as bad as most people's, but it still hurts a lot! Yes, I actually feel better if I'm standing and walking as much as possible. Yes, I can sit for hours of a time, but it becomes uncomfortable but doable, usually by shifting my weight to my right buttock. Yes, I still have 100% strength in my left leg, meaning that I can exercise properly.
But at the same time, I'm in constant pain and have to take 800mg Ibuprofen three times a day. This is not how I want to live at 21. Without the Ibuprofen, I reach daily 4 in pain, with it, a 2, but it's still there. But even the Ibuprofen doesn't prevent the extreme pain when I get up from sitting. Even just after 30 minutes of sitting, if I don't have two armrests I press with my hands to get up with, I experience an 8 in pain when I get up. That lingers for a fifteen seconds that involve limping, hunching over, and sometimes lightheadedness.
And because I've been on Ibuprofen for so long, I'm afraid to touch any alcohol. Didn't even drink on my 21st birthday that passed a few weeks ago. I also fear that long-term effects of being on Ibuprofen, but as of now I really have no choice if I want to function with a tolerable amount of pain.
So I feel like I'm at a crossroads. My doctors say I'm not bad enough to get surgery, but the conservative treatment that recommend has not worked in the past. The stretches my former PT recommended do not relieve my pain, and some of them don't even work anymore because it hurts too much to do them.
When I see this surgeon, am I supposed to lie and exaggerate (say that my pain increased since I last saw my doctor) my sciatica to a level that a surgeon would go for surgery? I'd hate to do this, but I'm surprised that with eight months of sciatica that they're still prescribing me with a conservative treatment. Its frustrating to be told to see a PT again and just to take my meds daily when neither has improved my condition.
The only thing I haven't tried are the steroid injections, but I'm very against those. I've known two people who got those (they suffered from separate cases) and it either helped them for a short time, or didn't work at all. I want a permanent fix, not something temporary.
And it's not that I WANT surgery. No way. Having to get back surgery at 21 is disheartening. Who have you heard that has gotten just one back surgery? This sets a terrible precedent. But at the same time, I feel like I have no other options. I don't want to be in pain anymore. I also used to be an athlete, and I was planning to return to crew in the fall, but there's no way I could do it with sciatica.
I really wish a microdiscectomy would just be something you could walk into a clinic and tell them to just get it over with.