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Crossfitter, Law Enforcement Officer, L5/S1 Bulge Herniation

leogingel5lleogingel5 Posts: 18
Hello all! I will start by saying this forum has helped a lot with my hopes. A little about me. Very very athletic, active, and healthy at 6'5" 32 years, 230 lbs. Competitive Crossfit athlete, swimmer my whole life and in college, kitesurfer, surfer, stand up surfer, etc. I say this to show how active I am and how even with this trial I am going through I will come back strong.

So 17 days ago on 4/3/15, I did a Crossfit workout after a work shift. About 2 hours after, I felt a weird sharp pain in my right thigh when driving. I felt like I had to extend my leg and relieve pressure, as if I was pinching a nerve. I did not know what it was. The next day it started to throb a little more and more. I could sit for more then 5 mins without walking or laying down. It killed. I went to work that eve, had a hard time driving and at one point I got out of my car only to discover my leg and foot was completely numb and heavy. I felt like a gimp.

The next day I went to my primary physician who said I might have a herniated disc. She got me an MRI ASAP that eve magically. She said to go ahead and work my overtime shift that eve and see how I felt. The next day I got a call from her and she said not to work and my disc was protruding a lot. She did not say nor did the report say how many MM. She gave me an oral steroid which helped the pain a lot. My calf and thigh was tight. I was walking with a good limp as well. My heel, and last three toes were pretty much numb. So was the right outer part of my thigh.

It has been 17 days now. My spine doc told me to swim like I know how to do well, workout supporting my back and focus on my core. I did not do a PT session, but am PTing myself because I know how to do so well being as active as I am. Each day for the most part I have been getting stronger and better.

I have all feeling back in my foot and leg. I have no pain in any part of my body. On a scale from 1-10, the occasional pain with a small shooting pain in the mornings in my leg is a 1 or 2 which goes away after I swim, warm up, and workout.

The right 4 and 5 toes on my right foot are the only ones with some slight tingle and my heel barely, not even noticeable. My back again does not hurt one bit. I even kitesurfed (I know not smart) and believe it or not I feel better today! ha.

The only true weakness i have left in my leg is the ability to stand on my right toes without assistance. I do 100 toe raises a day in the pool where I can because the weight is less with water.

So this is my story. I will compete again one day in Crossfit, and I will do all my sports. I even SUP'd a few times but have stopped because I realized I should really focus on healing then proving to myself what I can do still...Type A personality needs humbled.

My main question on this forum is...how do you all think I am doing, and with the weakness in my right toe stand alone is this a huge issue and does it just take time? I have read where people have had similar problems for years and with the micro surgery as last resort the strength comes back. Then I get worried where people say a few weeks can give perm damage to a nerve. It seems like it is a different case for everyone so I can imagine a straight answer is impossible.

Thoughts, compliments, criticisms please.



  • Doug HellDoug Hell Posts: 335
    edited 04/21/2015 - 6:09 AM
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    Realize that FEAR is our worst enemy. Get up & get out in that stormy weather of the real world & kick fear in the teeth. Stare at it dead in the eyes & walk right through it into the storm; because once you're wet, you won’t fear the rain anymore
  • Well, it's tricky. I'm probably one of the people you've read about who had nerve damage and worries you and to that I would say, it's worth being worried. While pain seems like the worst indication of an injury, it seems to me that tingling/numbness/loss of sensation/weakness/inability to perform certain motor functions are actually more of a concern in this case. I wish that I could go back and demand better treatment from some of my doctors. I begged and pleaded for them to listen, but I didn't know enough myself at that point to ask for more specific tests....and now I am paying what may well be a life-long price.

    I had massive, unrelenting, worsening pain along with the tingling and numbness and loss of function (unable to stand on my left side toes, loss of feeling). Now, more than 7 months post lumbar fusion and over a full year past when the tingling/numbness started, I am still dealing with a serious loss of function in my left foot/ankle/calf that may be permanent.

    I think it's always worth a second or even third opinion when it comes to your spine/nerves.
    Left leg radiculopathy/sciatic pain
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - May 30, 2014
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - Aug 14, 2014
    L5/S1 TLIF - Sept. 24, 2014
    Left-side screws/rod removed along with bone fragment Dec. 29, 2014
  • G,

    Weakness is not a good sign, period! And there could be a finite window of opportunity to correct it, if the disc is compressing your motor nerve.

    This just happened to me. My post is in this forum about weakness in my calf and inability to stand on my toes. The alarm bell was raised for me after going to my very first PT appointment 2 weeks after the weakness began...I totally failed tests standing on my toes and was told "point blank" that I had a short window to correct it. I was totally shocked and had to fight back tears. Like you, I had no back pain whatsoever at this point, although I did previously. My only symptom was limping/weakness walking, which had started during a week of sciatica. Like you, I felt tightness in my calf--almost like it needed to be stretched all the time. My disc problem is also L5-S1. (I could not hold my own weight on my right tip toes if I went up on both tip toes and then picked up my left foot from the floor; my right foot would just collapse).

    If a disc is compressing your motor nerve, a steroid injection might help to reduce the inflammation, but it will not physically take the disc off the nerve.

    I had a really difficult time getting an appointment to a neurosurgeon specializing in spine- I had to first get a referral from my GP. That was one day. Then, I could not get an appointment for months out. Then I tried again with another one, and the same thing. Not one receptionist understood the urgency or seemed to really care. Exasperated, I even physically went into their offices (almost 2 hours away) to see if I could get in sooner...it helped to get an appointment sooner, but still 2 weeks out with one of the neurosurgeons.

    Instead, I went directly to the ER at one of the best hospitals with the best reputations for neurosurgery in our area....two hours away from my home. Had an MRI and was admitted to the neuro floor and then operated on a day later to remove the piece of disc pressing on the motor nerve (micro discectomy). When I arrived on the neuro floor and they evaluated me and looked at the MRI, they totally "got it " and told me what my options were, etc. While I could have opted for conservative treatment first (steroid injection), they recommended surgery, since the disc was compressing the nerve. For me, I chose to be more aggressive, given the situation (possibility of permanent weakness). I only tell you my story if it helps you to handle any beaurocratic roadblocks if you can't get in to see someone right away. I had my surgery at 20 days after the weakness began. Praying it was not too late, but my surgeon was optimistic.

    As a first responder, who sees so many serious emergencies, this may not feel like an emergency medical situation to you, since you are so healthy and active, otherwise. Loss of limb function, however, could be on the line. If this is the case, time is of essence. If you can't get into a specialist for another opinion right away, perhaps ask your primary care physician to make phone calls...be persistent. Since you have already seen a spine guy (orthopedist?), think about a spine neurosurgeon, since they specialize in these nerves and can evaluate it from a different perspective.

    I am not trying to scare you, but please act with urgency. Being in law enforcement, you will need those toes to be strong to balance, move fast, and to run faster than the other guy, etc. If you lose function, you may even have difficulty running. Just get that second or third opinion. Wishing you the very best!

  • leogingel5lleogingel5 Posts: 18
    edited 04/22/2015 - 11:48 AM
    Well I see a neuro surgeon today. Like I said I have no pain whatsoever but a loss of some minor motor skills such as standing on my tip toes but that is it. It seems to day by day get better but very slowly. I will update you all soon...wish my luck.
  • kp1221kkp1221 Posts: 18
    edited 04/22/2015 - 2:19 PM
    Good luck with your appointment...let us know how it goes!

    I also thought perhaps my leg weakness might be getting better. But later was told that our bodies adapt very quickly, so my other leg was actually overcompensating for the lack of motor movement in my right leg. Hate to come across negative but just something to consider!
  • Well folks. I went to the neurosurgeon and also my ortho. I was really having a hard time on who to go with but I can included both have the same answer for me and suggested that I have the microsurgery.

    I made the decision yesterday to make it happen. I am on the books for surgery and that should happen within a week or so.

    I had a very close friend with me who is a nurse in the ER at the same hospital and took into consideration the risks, pros, cons. I really do not see anything negative with the surgery and decided if I wait that could be the worst thing but I could do.

    The surgery definitely outweighs the risk of losing those motor nerves and the strength in my right leg. Overall, I don't think my situation is as terrible as some of you. I think I am very lucky and fortunate and hopefully the surgery will resolve the issue and I'll be back to my normal life with proper physical training and healing. I definitely will make sure that I do it right.

    Maybe I missed it, but if there's anyone that had the microsurgery done who was an athlete I would love to hear the reply in their recovery time. I heard from two separate doctors that it is a six-week period of no physical training but after three months I will be back full duty at work and be able to resume all of my normal life activities. So I am guessing that the six week mark is when I start my physical training meaning stretching with a trainer slowly getting back into everything.

    Frankly, I am kind of excited especially to get my strength and feeling back in my foot. I just want to be normal again and more Importantly I miss my job more than ever.

    I will keep you guys posted on my surgery before and after as this is a pretty crazy road I am traveling. I've never had injuries before this is definitely new to me and I happen so quickly.
  • So you are in good company. Microsurgery seems to do generally well and since you are very fit to start you are a step ahead. I will be having fairly major surgery in June and NS is telling me 6 weeks so we will see. let us know how you are getting along. Sending healing thoughts and prayers your way Leo.
  • I'm glad that you've gotten some good advice from your doctors and your friend. Definitely follow the post surgery rules to the letter, but as someone else said, being in good shape prior to surgery puts you ahead of the game, recovery-wise. I think you'll find the microsurgery to be pretty simple to recover from, the biggest challenge will be to not over-do-it because you will feel better. Best wishes and definitely keep us posted!
    Left leg radiculopathy/sciatic pain
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - May 30, 2014
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - Aug 14, 2014
    L5/S1 TLIF - Sept. 24, 2014
    Left-side screws/rod removed along with bone fragment Dec. 29, 2014
  • I just had micro-d 10 days ago and doing well. Would be happy to share my experience with you. I am not an athlete by any stretch, but a mom of two very active toddlers. I was told no swimming or even PT for 8 weeks. No lifting more than 5-10 pounds for 8 weeks.

    I am so glad you sought specialist opinions quickly and have decided to act and not risk losing motor function. My better half is a deputy sheriff, so I am very aware of the impact something like this might have on your career. For me, personally, I could not imagine not being able to run quickly if my little ones were ever in in harms way. It was a no-brainer to have the surgery. As said above, just follow everything they tell you, even if you feel you can do more.

    Wishing you the best.
  • leogingel5lleogingel5 Posts: 18
    edited 04/25/2015 - 1:07 PM
    KP yes tell me about yours? I don't have any pain with all this, but my 4th and 5th toe have pins and needles and I can't stand alone on my right toes...my foot drops to the ground if I isolate it. With that, I decided to do the quick surgery based on the good recovery rates and positive results to resume life. What were your symptoms and what did you feel or suffer from? What was the relief after surgery?

    I look at this two ways. I could be screwed for life with a pinched nerve that dies, or I could suffer 6 weeks without working out and rebuild to do everything I did. I am not worried about not doing anything for 6 weeks. It is a small small price to pay then loose motor function with a limb on my body.

    I am doing it with SeaSpine out of Encinitas in San Diego. They seem like the top of their game from reviews and other people who have used them.

    I would wait, but with my job, I would rather get well NOW then wait and risk the nerve damage another 4 weeks...plus it was off duty which doesn't help me with being off longer then I need to.

    Yes, I am in great shape, but will be vigilant with recovery and eat my veggies to stay strong during the no workout time...ha!

    Will keep you updated.
  • KP1221 Im a bit confused with regards to your other post where you say your recovery isn't going well. So is it going well or not I am getting confused :)
  • I am sorry you are confused, Daniel, about my post in the surgery forum. I asked if anyone else had also experienced an uncontrollable urge or need to stretch their legs in their sleep after surgery . I am afraid that I could re herniate while stretching my legs in my sleep. I never said that my "recovery isn't going well." I am taking it one day, one step and one night at a time, trying to be as careful as possible, and following my doctor's advice.
  • G, A few thoughts on your upcoming surgery...
    The must-have purchase for me post surgery was getting a 2 inch memory foam mattress topper (Sealy from Macy's is totally amazing, on sale now, and has made all the difference for sleeping). The pain from my incision site felt like I was sleeping on a tennis ball until I got the memory foam topper. (That said, my incision was bigger than normal for micro-d, I was told, requiring ten or so staples, instead or sutures, because of the size of my herniation). Since they are going through muscle, etc., you will be sore, no doubt. For the incision pain, I also found that 5% lidocaine patches put adjacent to the incision site (prescription from your doctor) to be helpful,. This is in addition to whatever pain meds are prescribed. I also used a soft gel ice pack in the first few days. Don't feel guilty taking naps; I found I needed them by mid to late afternoon in the first week. Also very helpful for home will be a grabber (can buy from the hospital or find one on Amazon) - you will be surprised how much you use it and how much bending you used to do in the course of a day. Also, situate all your important items (cups, toiletries, etc) within easy reach. The occupational therapist at the hospital can give you good tips. Hopefully you will have a hand at home for at least the first day or two. I am not a big vitamin taker normally but researched it quite a bit, and learned for nerve health and repair, magnesium, a vitamin B complex, vitamin C and D, and co-q 10, might be helpful. (Obviously check with your doctor first). I was told to avoid vitamin E and omegas, by my doctor, as they can increase risk of bleeding. Lastly, I think it is important to have an advocate/friend with you whenever it is feasible in the hospital. I learned this the hard way in a totally different set of circumstance several years ago, but I think it is always a good idea, when possible. I will be 2 weeks post op on Wednesday. I am walking 10-15 minutes several times a day, albeit slowly and carefully. I am no longer limping and feel overall like I can push off on the ball of my foot better. I have yet to try going up on my tip toes, but will wait until I am more healed before even attempting that. My biggest concern post op has been an uncontrollable urge to stretch out my legs in my sleep, but hopefully you won't have that. What day is your surgery? Good luck! Keep us posted on how you are doing!
  • leogingel5lleogingel5 Posts: 18
    edited 05/05/2015 - 6:19 PM
    Good evening all. Well this morning 0730 hours I had my surgery. I dozed off and woke up feeling pretty good. I've been resting all day with a sweet woman by my side :-). I ate some good food and I am feeling pretty good with the medicine I am taking. I am not in a lot of pain at all, just stuff a little bit and very cautious about how I move and walk. I've been watching breaking bad all day. :-)

    The anesthesiologist told me that my nerve was pretty inflamed and that it was a good idea to have the surgery and get my herniation removed. I do notice when I walk my foot and I think part of my leg is a little bit numb. But Like I said I have no pain.

    My question is in and if you have numbness after the surgery? I am guessing that is Due to inflammation from all the surgical procedure. I'm also guessing I will be stiff in like this for a few days before it starts getting better on the upswing. I am deafly on the road to recovery and thank you all for your comments and support.

    My main question is how did everyone feel right after surgery pain wise, numbness wise, and winded things progressively improve?

    The doctor also scored us some lidocaine around my nerve which may have made my foot Numb I'm guessing as well. The doctor also put a steroid around my nerve.
  • Hey there! Glad to hear your surgery went well. I'm post-op day 7 after a microdiscectomy at L5-S1 and still have some numbness on the outside of my right foot. I had no pain after surgery but noticed some tingling in my foot the next day. That's resolved now...I'd say it went away around post-op day 4 or 5. Any numbness or tingling you had prior to surgery can take some time to go away as the nerve heals rather slowly.

    Today I barely feel any pain in my incision site, even with movement. I've been at the gym every day since post-op day 2 and haven't had any problems. I drove for about two hours yesterday and noticed that I had some very mild pain in my piriformis afterward, which was the WORST pain for me prior to surgery. This morning the pain is gone. I think mine was in spasm for so long that I have to wait for it to heal, almost like a muscle strain.

    Sounds like surgery went well! Take it easy while recovering...walk as much as you can. I feel great after hitting the gym every day.

    Keep us updated!
  • Wow. You're already at the gym? What are you doing at the gym? I am feeling pretty good I'm taking these two days to rest and really just recover. I'm not really in any pain at all just some numbness in my right foot on the outside of the heel. I'm hoping though that that will go away and then to regain my strength to stand on my right tip toes. I really can't complain I think it went really well. I talked to my doctor last night and he stated that my herniated disc was actually wrapped around my nerve.

    It was really inflamed and it was the right call to do the surgery.
  • Glad you're feeling well. :) I'm only walking at the gym...no more than that. I live on a mountain and so everything around me is on an incline, and my surgeon said that's a no-go right after surgery. So it's just me and the treadmill! I went 1.5 miles today at once and am still having that dull ache in my butt...I probably should dial it back a bit. But I do a lot of resting too...no shame in that!
  • Ha ha. Well I am almost to the entire series of breaking bad :-). I am doing well my back is a little sore, and my right foot is still a little numb and tingly. I feel like I am walking slow and don't have full motion but maybe I'm just being very careful. I think it's my natural bodies instinct.
  • I'm walking slowly too. I used to run a 10% incline at 6.5 mph and now I'm walking between 2.3 and 2.5. And my stride doesn't feel normal yet, but it's getting there.

    Recovery will be a journey! Slow and steady wins the race.
  • So 5 days out.

    No pain at all, but when I wake up in the morn and in the night to use the restroom, I find my foot is numb. I have been told over and over that my back is still inflamed and it looks like it is with a bump around my incision. I take it will take a few solid weeks for it to go down.

    I am hoping and praying my numbness will subside over time as well and my strength will come back too. My foot feels a little more numb then before surgery, nothing terrible, but as I said above, it makes sense being they pushed and disturbed a lot of inners of me to fix me.

    I am walking a good amount. I actually took a 4 fast running steps to get out of the way of a car the other day which i don't think was smart but I AM MORE CAREFUL NOW! haha

    I was so worried I did something to my back.....but I am not in pain or anything. Sometimes we need reminders. Slow and steady wins the race.
  • Brising82BBrising82 Posts: 1
    edited 07/07/2015 - 9:15 PM
    I work in law enforcement and herniated 2 discs during a foot pursuit (L4 and L5 with severe radiculpathy) and ended up having a microdiscectomy in Oct 2014. I went back to work on January 1, 2015. (Perhaps too soon, but being on light duty was driving me insane.) Well, end of April I was responding to a call and got out of my patrol car and felt a weird pain in my back again. I figured it was ok but after a few hours it started getting much worse. Well I went back to the doc, had an MRI and found that I had re herniated the discs. Supposedly only a 10 % chance of re herniation! My doctor said I would need a spinal fusion. This TERRIFIES me. I love my job. This may prevent me from being able to do it. I'm going to try cortisone shots because like I said, I'm terrified of a spinal fusion. I'm not sure how long your doc said that you'd be out of work, but I recommend more than 6-8 weeks as I think I went back too soon before my back could fully heal and be strong enough to carry all of the extra weight from my duty belt and whatnot.

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  • Here is what I wrote to another guy on this forum. I just cut and pasted it so might be more than you wanted to hear but here ya go! Good luck!

    In August 2014 I started having severe pain in my right hammy which would take time off to torture my right glute, calf, and foot as well. It got progressively worse with my day to day pain at about a 7, a few episodes in the 9 and 10 range, and could get below a 5 temporarily with swimming, acupuncture, or percocet. My diagnosis after the MRI was a 10mm herniation at L5/S1 with extrusion.
    I finally caved after 2 months of the pain and got the round of 3 steroid shots. Round 1 barely touched it. After I stressed to the administering doc that my pain was all sciatic, he hit me lower and with greater volume on the second shot and dropped the pain over 50%! That saved me from surgery. The third shot helped it a little bit better and by November my pain was a temporarily manageable 3.
    I was off work for 6 months which really helped because I could completely regulate my day and my pain. By early February (2015) my pain was at about a 2. But I was still popping 2400 mg a day of Ibuprofen. I went to Light Duty at that point and took a few steps backward. Sitting for an hour or so, driving around town, and just being unable to completely regulate exacerbated it. But gradually I was able to get back to that point, cut back on the Ibuprofen, and ultimately quit it all together. Right at the 9 month point I was at a 2 pain level without any drugs to help. I took another month to test it and returned to work Full Duty at 10 months. I've only gotten better over the past few weeks. I'm still careful with weights but started running a bit lately, have been hitting stairs with a 30 lb pack (80 floors), and doing pretty much every other CrossFit exercise besides Olympic Lifting (pull-ups, rowing, box jumps, etc.)
    Personally, I believe time was the biggest factor. You've got to let the inflammation die down and NOT inflame it back up. I kept testing it along the way and would pay for it here and there. I fell on my skateboard on a mini-ramp (I know, stupid!) and that set me back a couple of weeks. Other than that, Press-Ups (from the McKenzie Method) seemed to really help. One night at dinner like 4 months ago, a 4 or 5 pain hit me out of the blue. I dropped to the floor, did Press-ups for a minute, and the pain was gone! It only worked that well the one time but made a believer out of me. Swimming was awesome. Allowed me to stay in shape during it all, the reduction in gravity (while some believe can make it worse once you get out of the pool, not me!) gives you short-term relief while you're in the pool and lasts an hour or so afterwards, and the careful, long pulls potentially stretch you out. I did acupuncture for a couple of months early on. It gave me immediate relief but within an hour I was right back to where I was before. And the last time I went I came out hurting more than when I went in. Not for me. I tried Yoga while I was still in Hell and I wasn't ready. I've been following ROMWOD.com religiously now for over a month and feel awesome.
    I hope any or all of this helps you brother. I feel your pain and 22 is waaaay to young to be going through this. Someone once told me that its a year recovery whether you have the surgery or not. You just have to deal with the pain longer if you can hold out. But surgery scares the crap out of me and I am holding it as a last resort.

    Update: Been ROMWODing for 2 months now and will never stop. Helping me tremendously! I've upped my CF to muscle ups, HSPUs, Box Jumps, etc. but still staying away from moderate weight. Getting there without surgery is possible. There are a lot of people on these forums that have had the surgery and still have pain. That sucks and I feel really bad for those folks. But maybe some of these same movements such as swimming, core work, and ROMWOD can help them too.

    Good luck everyone.

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