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L4/L5 - S1 Large Herniated Disc - doctor only recommends surgery

AnthonyBAAnthonyB Posts: 1
edited 01/13/2015 - 8:40 AM in Lower Back Pain
Hello all I have been reading post on here for about a month now and I would really appreciate some help with my condition.

Since October 2014 I had been having a pain in the middle of my back which I didn't recognize, I started to not be able to bend or squat as I had been doing. In November it got worse so I went to the chiropractor and he said It was a muscle pull and would take 1-3 days for him to get me back. The condition worsened until I felt like I needed to go to the Doctor. He had me have an MRI early December which indicated I had a large herniated Disc L4/L5 S1. As of this time the pain was acutely in my back but getting worse especially when I sneezed.

Wednesday December 11th I began to feel some sciatic pain down my left leg stopping at the knee which stayed pretty mild until Sunday morning on Dec 14th. I got up to go to church and the pain just kept getting worse until I ended up leaving church early and screaming in pain until I could lay down flat on my face and take some pain killers. I basically laid down for 3 days straight and each time I got up the sciatic pain was very severe. The Ortho could not see me until the 22nd so I went to the chiropractor on Thursday and showed him my MRI. He began some decompression therapy which seemed to help.

The next week I was still not able to work but I began trying to walk around, I was limping and had lost almost all strength in my calf and foot, After days of laying and icing and a round of prednisone from my family doctor I was able to limp around with minimal strength in my left leg.

On the 22nd I went to the Ortho and he immediately recommended surgery because of the weakness in my leg, However I told him I did not want to do surgery because I had improved to the point of walking 1 mile and sitting for a short while without pain. He gave me another round of prednisone and said he would see me within two weeks.

I went back to see him on the 7th and had regain full strength in my calf muscle I still have some sciatic pain but I am not taking any pain killers or anti inflammatory medication, I am able to walk to miles without limping. My biggest problem now is I have a very tender spot in my lower back slightly to the left of my spine. I also have trouble sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time without some pain in my calf muscle. My pinky to is numb and also the side of my left foot. The major problem is my hamstring tightness in both legs from 3 months without stretching.

The Ortho said that I could be healing and he would see me again in another 3 weeks. This is the problem he said I needed to stretch and gave me a paper with back exercises which include sitting in a chair and trying to touch my toes. I know this will aggravate my disc problem. The paper also said I should exercise by running, cycling or skiing. When I called him back to tell him I couldn't do the exercises on the paper and to try and get a muscle relaxer for the cramps and spasms in my left leg he refused and said it would just mask symptoms. Meanwhile he prescribed me pain killers and anti inflammatory medication which I am not taking. He also said that if my back hurt to bad to do the exercises I needed to have surgery and large protrusions like mine don't normally heal on their own.

Can anyone help me out on this. I am a month away from the worst pain I have ever had in my life and I feel as though I am getting better. Why wouldn't he recommend me for therapy? I am 27 years old 6'5 235 lbs and have been playing sports my whole life. Does this sound like reasonable progression time for healing? Also what should I do about hamstring tightness is this a common thing or is it due to nerve problems?

thank you




  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 01/13/2015 - 8:42 AM

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 554
    My opinion is to go get a 2nd & maybe even a 3rd opinion. Before any type of surgery, it's recommended that you get more opinions. Good luck & keep us posted
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,856
    But many times it is also the only course of action to correct a problem.

    Many disc related problems can be resolved without the need of aggressive surgery. But that depends on the action plans put forth by your doctor and how they are going to monitor you.

    You will read on these forums, that the most immediate time to have surgery is when there is a disc that is pressing on a nerve root. The longer that condition continues the longer the potential healing time.

    When your doctor says now is the time for surgery, there are a few basic questions I would ask:

    • - If I dont have surgery, what will happen?
      - How long do I have before I need the surgery?
      - Can I wait before having surgery? and if so, how long?
      - What is the recovery time frame for this surgery?
      - What are the long term prognosis ?
    I always want those questions answered, but in addition as Motor1 said, go for a second opinion. If you get two doctors that are saying the same thing for you, then you almost bank on that. But if they have different opinions, then seeking a 3rd opinion is in order.

    You want to feel comfortable that the surgery is going to create the problem. But you also have to understand that just by having surgery does not mean you are going to be pain free. There will be some limitations and restrictions. But stay within those guidelines and you can do a lot more than people think you can.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Hi, I am 25 and have two bulging discs and 4 back surgeries in.
    Honestly, i feel that back surgeons might look at their patience as a bag of money and not individuals who need help. If you're not like going crazy with pain I don't think you should get surgery. There are plenty of options before that. Physical therapy, aqua therapy,etc. Also, you have to give your body time to heal.
    The first surgery I had the doctor said I was young and I was going to recover fast. I wish i would NeveR have had that surgery done. It caused issues with the rest of my back.
    My point is, you should probably exhaust allllll other options first.
    Good luck'! :-)
    Patience and love is always in your control *
  • Your doctor has clearly given you a non patient specific print out of exercises, running, skiing! Ugh! I'd get a referral to a physical therapist who should look at your diagnostic results & advise you of the activities you should & shouldn't be doing. He will then give you a routine of stretches & exercises tailored for you & your condition.

    Please, PLEASE don't allow a chiropractor to do adjustments on you. When you have damage that can end very badly. Every specialist has always told me to NEVER go to a chiropractor again.

    I'm with everyone else, 2nd & 3rd opinions until you're comfortable with your descision. I have permanent nerve damage & you don't want to end-up there but you don't want to have unnecessary surgery if concervative means could sort it.
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • DbalesDDbales Posts: 1
    edited 01/30/2015 - 9:16 PM
    I want to encourage you. 21 years ago I had a massive rupture at the L4-5 the neurosurgeon showed me the MRI and it was really putting tremendous pressure on the Sciatic nerve and the pain went all the wY to the ankle bone and and felt like a bear was chewing my leg off. He said surgery was inevitable but advised the conservative route. After 7-8 weeks the pain subsided and I started walking and PT. I had been eating pain pills like candy but got off them in 8 days by gradually reducing dose strength and widening the interval. Never had surgery. I have had several more ruptures over the years on left and right side confirmed by MRI and some I never went to Dr for. I am currently in the 5th week of yet another episode and I have lately benefited from ESI injections to relieve pain while natural healing occurs. I practice core and back strength exercises. I am not able to play golf now but I will play again. I am 61 years young. I have resisted surgery since 1994 and it is not likely I will ever have surgery unless the pain remains continuous for over 2-4 months. Have patience and hang in there. The ESI shots are a breeze and I even get them with no sedation. Feel free to PM me. I hope to be playing golf by March!
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