I've been lurking on this site for months now, so I figured I should just sign up and join in the fray. I'm a 35-year old female, super active, and I've been somewhat down for the count since December 15, 2014, with days of varying dysfunction.
I had a car accident in 2002 which was the start of my back problems. I've generally just had stiffness, occasional pain, and sciatica here and there, though rarely. MRIs over the years show DDD, though nothing too major, and I've had bulging discs from L3 to S1. Well, now L5-S1 is herniated, or else I probably wouldn't be here.
Anyway, I've always had relief through massage and chiropractic care, so when this whole thing happened recently I was surprised that I couldn't get it under control. Basically, I'd been having pain in my right buttock since November 2014. I really thought I had piriformis syndrome, so I was doing a lot of stretching and massage. After a particularly strenuous personal training session on December 13, I woke up on the 15th in the worst pain I've ever had in my life. Completely searing pain from my right buttock to my 4th and 5th toes on the right foot. I happen to be a physician, and so I knew immediately that I'd herniated my disc. Sure enough, an MRI confirmed a 10 mm x 14 mm x 13 mm right parcentral herniation. And so here I am.
I've done three courses of oral steroids, two cortisone injections (one in my hip, one in my piriformis muscle...these were both pre-MRI and I had no relief), seven sessions of acupuncture (great for temporary relief but nothing lasting), multiple massages, multiple appointments with my chiropractor (again, temporary relief), several sessions of PT plus daily home stretching (which led me to get substantially worse), and one ESI at the beginning of February that helped tremendously ...three days for the sciatica, lasting relief thus far for my back stiffness. However, as most of us know, the sciatica is the real problem.
I'm at an interesting point now. I am able, for the most part, to walk with less pain and to be generally more able-bodied in my daily life. I have slept through the night more in the last week than I have in the last two and a half months. I consider that progress...though lately I've been having a lot of trouble getting comfortable while seated. There are times when it gets so bad that I have to lay on the floor of my office at work. (I have not missed any work except for a half day last week...physical therapy was VERY rough on me.) But yet I consider the fact that I'm sleeping and having relatively
less pain as progress...but what do I know? My symptoms could just be changing and not actually improving. I really don't know.
I trust my orthopedic surgeon implicitly. He has not pushed surgery and has actually encouraged me to do conservative treatments first. He cited a study for me about how people who opt for surgery and people who opt for conservative treatment generally report the same level of recovery at 5 and 10 years down the road...but he said it really depends on how much pain you can tolerate and how much it's interrupting your daily life when it comes to choosing surgery. I have my second ESI scheduled for this coming Tuesday, and if I don't have lasting relief, I probably am going to need to make a decision. He's recommending microdisdectomy, which doesn't particularly worry me...but it's amazing what you'll accept after you've been in pain for so long!
Driving my decisions is the fact that I am a kayaker, mountain climber, and skier. I simply cannot imagine a life without those things, and so I am having an incredibly difficult time deciding what road I should choose. I know that everyone's path and everyone's recovery is different, so I guess I'm not necessarily looking for advice... I think I'm just looking to be among people who understand what I'm going through and who have been in my position. I have a lot of support in "real life", but it's limited by the fact that no one really gets how frustrating and awful this is for me.
So...hello, everyone. And thanks for reading my little novel.
I'm typing as I sit on my tennis ball, which has been my constant companion since this all started!
(Of note, I'm currently in the middle of a ski vacation. For reasons unknown to me AND my orthopedic surgeon, skiing gives me no pain and actually relieves my symptoms for several hours. I wish I knew why!)