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Suspected sciatica & Anxiety, Reassurance needed.


So I have posted in here before a couple of months ago to ask for help and advice for ways to help with my sciatica. I have had pain every single day down my leg, into my foot, in my, hip, back i'm sure many of you get the point & feel my pain! This has been happening since the 3rd April, and I am starting to believe now although I am in pain, I am getting better... or maybe I am just coping with the pain now and learning to manage it!

Anyway! I FINALLY got referred to a spine specialist from my doctor after the doctor had to try me with physio treatment, amitripilyn medication, acupuncture, massage & chiropractor therapy (Paid for myself) and of course it didn't work! He is sending me for an MRI which I should be having in the next week or so BUT.. i have very very severe health anxiety. After googling when it first started (which I know I shouldn't of done) I am convincing myself everyday that I have something severely wrong.. although I have been reassured by so many doctors and people etc now. Of course they can't say for definite that nothing serious is wrong until I have my MRI but I just wanted some advice really from anybody who also experiences anxiety and has had sciatica and an MRI. Then I keep having to tell myself if something severe was wrong, it wouldn't be improving as at the start I couldn't even walk 2 steps without crying in agony!

My doctor thinks I have a slipped disc because of my posture but isn't sure but I just wanted to ask.. The MRI results, would they tell me there and then if there was something seriously up? I think i'm overthinking everything far too much, but I feel like getting advice from people who have experienced the same as I have, it would really help & i would really appreciate it! Also any advice to keep myself calm when I have my MRI?

Just to add I am only 23, so I also understand that it is quite uncommon for somebody my age to be experiencing a case of sciatica as bad as I am, which obviously adds more pressure to my anxiety!

Sorry for the long post, thank you for reading if you have & I would really appreciate some advice if anybody has any!

Hannah :)


  • When it comes to MRI's or other diagnostic tests, they can not and will not give you the results. That information needs to come from your doctor.
    You can however pick up the report in most situations once it has been faxed to your doctor.
    One word of caution, well a couple avtually, given your concerns and anxiety over your health, I would suggest that you schedule a follow up appointment with the doctor who ordered the MRI for a week after you have it done, and that you don't get the report ahead of time.
    The radiologist who reads the images and dictates the report lists all anatomical findings from the images. BUT all those findings don't necessarily mean anything is wrong , and in many cases, people read the report and jump to conclusions because of the medical terms used and that's not helpful.
    There are plenty of things listed in an MRI report that are listed that are perfectly normal for your age, and spine condition but it can scare someone who doesn't know what's normal, what's not, and what to be concerned over.
    The best suggestion is get the MRI done, schedule your follow up and let your doctor explain what is there or not there. There isn't any need to set yourself up for an extended period of time worrying over what's in the report.
    If there is anything of a serious nature, the MRI imaging place will notify your doctor right away and he will notify you.

  • Hannah. It's nice to hear from you & I'm so pleased that you're tarting to feel a bit better. That's a great sign!
    Please, PLEASE listen to Sandi. When my Dad had his first MRI they gave him a SEALED envelope (in England) & told him to take it to his spine surgeon to explain the results. Being, well, my Mum & Dad they steamed the envelope open & started looking up terms in an old medical encyclopedia! (this was before the Internet. I hate to think what would of happened now!). They came across a word they didn't understand. The encyclopedia said CANCER!!!! As luck would have it this was Friday evening! The whole weekend was a nightmare. I was phoning every person I knew who had ever done anything slightly medical to get their view. None of us slept until Monday! My Dads surgeon returned our messages as soon as he got into his office. Told them off for reading the report & assured us that it was a perfectly normal finding for his age & that just because one word can have several different meanings it categorically does NOT mean he's about to die!!! My Dad had a herniated disc pressing on a nerve. ALL the other stuff in the 3 page report was completely irrelevant. ;-)

    The actual MRI is very simple. Make sure you dont wear any metal. I wear yoga pants & a baggy t-shirt. You can put anything, underwire bra etc in a locker. If you wear soft metal free bottoms they usually let me keep them on. You wear a gown. The tech waits outside for you. You sign a form stating that youre not pregnant. They will offer a test if you're not sure.
    You lay down & they put a support under your legs to take the pressure off of your spine. It's usually cold in there & they offer you a blanket...take it. The machine makes quite loud (not bad at all really) sounds, you can tell when it's doing it's thing by the whirring & clunking noises. They put headphones on you & ask what kind of music you want to listen to. The tech can hear you the whole time so if you need to stop or anything is worrying you you can just say. They occasionally ask you (between images) if everything is ok. Try to get comfortable before they start. Get your feet comfortable or you will want to move them. I do! If you move it's not a big deal, they will need to do that image again.
    They will tell you how long it's going to take before you start. That depends on how many images they're doing. I usually have a lot. Either time goes fast or they give you the very longest it could take! I always mean to check my watch before & after but I have to leave it in the locker! It always feels much quicker than they say.
    If you're really nervous about the actual MRI tell your doc & he might give you something to calm you. Are you claustrophobic? If you are talk to your doc.
    I find them much, much, much easier than I expected. ;-)

    Ask for a copy of the images on disc. You won't be able to tell what you're looking at so don't even bother looking at the CD! It's good to have your own copy for docs & specialists to look at. They often prefer the actual images to the report.

    As Sandi says it will take, at most, one week for your doc to get the report so make an appointment & he will explain the findings. Their job is to list EVERYTHING. Even reports that show 'nothing' will run to 2 pages usually. Waiting is the hardest part but just remember the MRI changes NOTHING! What's there is there so why worry? It's a really GOOD thing because you will finally know what's going on in there. Once they know for sure treatments can be targeted & more effective. It's exciting!

    I started being tested for 'stuff' before I was even a teenager. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis young. I know how frightening it all is. You shouldn't have to go through this. None of us should. It sucks! Be brave & it will be over very soon & you'll know why you hurt. That's huge! Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of your pain ;-)

    We're here for you as always if you need to vent or have any more questions. Best of luck!
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • Thank you so much for both of your replies. I have my MRI booked for Saturday and after reading both your responses I am feeling a bit better by it. I'm just so panicked about what the results are going to be, but I keep telling myself the fact I feel I am getting better, must mean that there isn't anything seriously wrong (Like a tumor etc) I think the only reason that is in my head is because when I have looked at possible causes that was one of them, so because i've seen it, i'm convinced i've got it! I really should stop googling haha! I am excited to finally get down to what is causing it and be able to have treatment that is completely aimed at helping me rather than what they don't know!

    I'm hoping that I will be ok though, and as I said the fact i am feeling better must be a good sign! I'm not so scared of the MRI itself just the results really :/ But what I don't know won't make me any better if I don't find out!!

    Once again for both your responses, I will be sure to make another post when I know fully what the problem is. Hope you are both okay with your problems & at least I know i'm not alone!

    Thanks again
  • Hiya!

    so I had my MRI on Saturday, I was fine after I was in the tunnel and then got told I would have to wait 2-3 weeks for the results. This morning so 3 days later, I had a phone call saying my results were back & I had to go and see the specialist straight away. Obviously this put me into huge panic mode & I thought the worst. I was then reassured that I had a very big bulging disc so the specialist would be better to be seen. After an hours wait at the hospital I saw the specialist who reviewed my images & decided surgery would be the best option after I think it's L5 severe bulged disc. I've been placed on a waiting list for surgery within 2 weeks. Just had another phone call & it's either going to be this Friday or next Wednesday!

    I just feel like it's happened so fast but I'm so glad I now know the cause so hopefully will be better soon!!
  • Welcome to the broken L5 disc club!

    I had a microdiscectomy in May on my L5-S1 disc which had ruptured and I'm doing fine so far! Hopefully In a week or two you'll be sciatica free!
    L5-S1 microdiscectomy, May 2015
  • fedup100ffedup100 Posts: 46
    edited 07/28/2015 - 10:10 AM

    I am glad you have answers. I also have a bulging disc l5s1 mine is moderate and no surgery is being done yet but have been told possibility in the future. I started having problems at 25 which was 5 years ago and to be honest have been suffering ever since with it gradually getting worse and worse. I wish you all the best with your surgery and a speedy recovery. I like yourself have terrible anxiety but somehow when I know what's wrong it's easier to face the situation.
  • Mr jolly glad to hear you are recovering well! I cannot wait to be sciatica free I feel like it's gone on for that long now!! The end is near (hopefully) :)

    Fed up - I completely agree now I know what is going on I feel so much better about it (if that's possible lol) but it's definitely lifted 80% of my anxiety off my shoulders!! I hope you get yours sorted soon & you will be pain free eventually. I was so surprised I am having surgery so quickly as I know they try and put it off as much as possible to see if it heals itself. Maybe if you keep pushing them or if your pain gets considerably worse you will also be able to have the surgery & be pain free finally! :)
  • I'm currently pregnant so surgery wouldn't be done for me now unless it was an emergency. I worry how I'm going to get through this pregnancy (there is my anxiety again).I'm just going to have to learn to wait and see. I really do wish you all the best and a speedy recovery. Didn't I read somewhere you had a young child? I have two children and its hard when you are sick you feel lots of emotions cause you want to be fit to do things with your kids.

    Hope you have your surgery done quickly and the recovery is quick too. Keep in touch I would love to hear how you get on.
  • Hey,

    Oh no really :/ how far gone are you? Maybe just plenty of rest and not overdoing it will help you! It's obviously just when baby is here you're going to have to be extra extra careful :/ really hope it's calmed down for you then & you're not still suffering! Maybe a water birth would help with labour too if you can have one! Would take the pressure off your back :)

    Yes I have a 2 year old son so that's probably the worst thing out of everything really. If I didn't have him not being able to lift or walk would be fine but not being able to take him out to play or for days out is horrible :(

    I've been scheduled to have my op on Wednesday so I will definitely keep you updated & let you know my progress :)

    Thank you :)
  • I'm only 10 weeks but I'm very happy about it I love kids. If it wasn't for my back I would have loads though this will prob be my last.

    I'm back up walking now with pain but I can walk a good enough distance. I don't drive so I need to be fit to move about as kids have places to go.

    My sciatica comes and goes during the day when I rest (lye down flat) it more or less goes away but once I stand for any length of time it's back. Walking is helping I think it's a slow recovery process. I put my back out the other week and couldn't walk so still probably taking time for that to get better.

    Have no idea what way the labour will go I have my first hospital appointment next week so going to ask them about it to see if I can do much to prepare for it.

    I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old. The 5 year old is quite understanding and will be patient but the 2 year old doesn't understand at all.

    All the best for Wednesday and I hope the anxiety for you is minimal. :-)
  • Fedup, when I was pregnant I had back pain. I had to buy a back support. As my stomach grew it pulled on my back muscles. Good luck!
    8/31/15 microdiscetomy laminotomy
    8/15 reruptured l5
    12/24/13 laminotomy/discetomy of L5
    9/98 laminectomy l4/l5
  • What type of back support do you remember? I have a serola si joint belt but not sure if I can use it during pregnancy.
  • Aww congratulations! My sciatica is exactly the same if I stand up my leg just doesn't cope and I have to sit down as I'm in such bad pain but once I'm actually sat down or led down im perfectly fine! When it first started sitting & lying down was just a big no no too and I was in agony no matter what I did! So I think with things like that it shows that I am improving but not enough for me to be able to walk basically!

    My son is 2 too, I'm just so worried he's not going to understand and get upset when I'm having to rest in bed or not be able to play with him or pick him up etc. my partner is so understanding and helps out so much but I also feel like I'm putting stress on him as he's having to do everything!

    I still don't think it's hit me about the surgery! I'm a lot more calmer than I think I should be so I'm hoping fingers crossed that I stay like this!!
  • fedup100ffedup100 Posts: 46
    edited 08/06/2015 - 7:06 AM
    How did you get on with surgery? Your symptoms sound very similar to mine. I sort of feel that I'm heading towards and op after my baby is born. Though the surgeon did say if I wanted I could try spinal injections first so I might do that.

    I'm lucky my partner is very good as well it really makes all the difference as alot of people don't understand chronic back pain and how much it can affect your life.

    Really hope you are recovering well from your surgery and all is good with you.
  • Hannah LouiseHHannah Louise Posts: 26
    edited 08/07/2015 - 7:05 AM
    So, I had my surgery on Wednesday woke up to find I had had spinal fluid leak but only the smallest amount so I am currently still in hospital! They've had me on bed rest for 48 hours which ends tonight, I haven't been able to sit up or anything. I am FED UP! I just feel so rubbish and run down which I know will just be because of lack of sleep and how uncomfortable I am but I can happily say all my sciatica pain has gone!! There's no pain in my leg what's so ever all that I have now is just restless legs & a very sore bum but the physios are getting me up tomorrow so I'm hoping I'll be home!

    I haven't been allowed to get up and move around yet so I'm not sure how I am regarding weakness in my legs or pain etc but I've been moving My legs a lot & as far as I can feel and see there is no weakness or pain so fingers crossed!

    I hope you get answers soon though as long as my recovery does go well I would say the surgery is a good thing! I'll let you know though at the moment I'm just feeling very sorry for myself & fed up!
  • PipskimaripskiPPipskimaripski Posts: 7
    edited 08/18/2015 - 12:06 AM
    Had sciatica for 12 weeks now, probably today in more pain than ever before, have done physio, acupuncture, chiropractor, been to see physio specialist and got referred to have MRI, she suspects bulging disc. I'm on amytripyline, which I nearly gave up, during first few weeks of taking them had hallucinations at night and nightmares then around day 12 that wore off and finally the tablet started kicking in on the pain, moved from 1 tablet to 1.5 (I sawed them in half) about to move to 2 tablets as had rough night of pain last night so indication to increase dosage, also on Co-dydramol and Naproxen which is an anti inflammatory. All of which make me short tempered and irritable, I am normally very bubbly and happy but the combination of drugs and pain and worry about this is not helping. My worry is the numbness which has now spread from my toes to the back of my calf, I would really like to hear from anyone who has been through this, a couple of you reading further back have mentioned this but it's all gone quite, I am hoping that you have recovered and are free from numbness and have moved on, forgetting to post here as you have your lives back! Would be fab to get an update! I had my MRI yesterday and appointment with the consultant is in a week. The only thing that helps mine is lying flat, not even raised on elbows, heat and walking but slowly and not too far, pottering would maybe describe it better. I'm a Graphic Design running my own business so have really been struggling, this so impacts your whole life, I have three large dogs, just getting out of bed first thing to exercise them is endurance, I'm clinging to the saying, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger! Would like to hear back from anyone 3 months out of recovery.

    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    ~ spine-health moderator, savage
    Know pain, no gain
  • Hiya,

    First of all I completely understand what you're going through! I'm nearly 2 weeks post op now & I can honestly say it is the best thing I have ever ever done. I couldn't even stand up for more than 30 seconds before because my pain was so so bad in my leg. Even sitting I had to change positions after 5 minutes because I was so uncomfortable. I didn't have a lot of numbness but I did have a lot of pins & needles a lot of the time & that was so uncomfortable! I was absolutely terrified before my surgery & didn't realise how bad I actually was until now. I still have the odd few twinges in my leg & still get the odd bit of shorting pain when I first sit up or move around after sitting down but apart from that I can lie/sit down for long periods of time even standing up without being in pain! If you do have the option of having surgery I would recommend it. I am only 23, so my recovery time has been a lot quicker so I know that has helped but for the first time in nearly 5 months I actually feel happy & know I am getting a lot better.

    I didn't really think amitriplyn did anything for me & they just didn't seem to help at all! Neither did Physio or acupuncture! If you get the option of surgery I would say go for it! After only 12 weeks of pain it's very very good that you've been referred for an MRI already too it took my doctors so long before they finally realised how bad I was. I hope you get sorted out soon & will finally be pain free! It really does take over your life as well as being in pain you just feel mentally & physically drained from the constant pain & how it makes you feel on a day to day basis.

    I hope you have a speedy recovery & hope to hear from you soon :)

  • I've got a prolapsed disc and he said it's a big prolapse, which caught me out as I thought it would be something minor, even though the pain has been high, I think I have been luckier than you Hannah as I can sit on my office chair for 30 minutes at a time, it gets uncomfortable after a while and I get up and walk around, I found I am sleeping now I am on the painkillers although still waking. The numbness is the scariest thing as my sister got foot drop and I don't want to get that but foot fairly numb in the toes and up the back of my calf. I have a high pain threshold and I'm quite tough but have learnt to potter. Being referred to a surgeon for 'a little chat' and to see if surgery is needed, I am not keen, not bothered by any surgery but have read lots of cases where surgery hasn't worked and pain has come back at a later date, I'm 47 but you sound like you will be fine Hannah as you are only young. I am not panicking and waiting for appointment to come through, been given the warning signs of what to look out for and to not hang around if they happen, very rare this happens but apparently my disc profusion is very near the nerve that controls womens bodily functions so hence the worry! I am deep breathing and relaxing and listening to a hypnotherapy tape to get out of my head all that I've been told so I don't panic! The numbness worries me more than anything really, anyway I will keep you posted and very glad to hear you are doing so well Hannah it gives me a bit of faith!
    Know pain, no gain
  • I'm glad you got answers about what was causing your pain! Glad to know yours isn't as bad as mine either!! I wouldn't wish what I went through on my worst enemy. Have you had your app with the surgeon yet? Hopefully physio & possibly an epidural injection maybe will help you! Mine was that bad I wasn't offered that so hopefully yours isn't as severe! Relaxation will definitely be helping I wish I told myself that before my operation!! Glad to hear you are sleeping better too I am too now i'm out of pain its absolutely amazing!! I've been sleeping a lot longer I think i'm just catching up on all the sleep I've missed out on over the last 5 months ha ha! I think that's the scariest thing when they tell you about the risks or warning signs etc you obviously think the worst and it doesn't help at alllll with things as you're just making your body more stressed! Hopefully you get the best outcome from seeing the surgeon anyway. Let us know when you know & keep us updated :)

    I am now 3 days painkiller free & am getting on A LOT better! I have my post op appointment on Thursday so I think the doctor is going to be very impressed with how well I have healed! I'm completely overwhelmed still with how much better I am so fingers crossed I stay like this! Hope to hear from you soon,
  • I had a l5/s1 severe disc herniation. To start with I had no numbness at all and my main problem was the dreadful sciatica. The sciatica just got worse and I was referred, after 3 months of no improvement, for an MRI. After I got the results I was told that I had a severe bulge that was completely squishing the nerve and that I would need surgery. I waited for an appointment with a surgeon but then ended up getting rushed to hospital after I suddenly went numb from the waist down on my right side. I have to say though that this was accompanied by severe nerve pain that I could not tolerate. I went into hospital and had surgery to remove the disc bulge a week later. I woke up with no sciatica but was left with my two little toes numb, the right side of my calf and the right side of my thigh. My surgeon tells me that the numbness may take a long time to go, sometimes up to a couple of years. I don't really think about it much now as it's almost become part of me now. Apparently nerves have memory, it was explained to me like the phantom pains amputees have when they loose a limb, your nerve, if it's been numb for a while, remembers.

    Anyway, I hope that helps, I'm hoping that the numbness will completely go and I wish you all luck with your recovery. Hannah, you are very brave.

  • Hoya! Glad you are okay now & that the pain has gone! That was more my problem too my sciatica was so severe in my leg I didn't really have any numbness. It was terrible I couldn't do anything without being in agony! I'm so so so happy that has now gone!! All I have now is a couple of twinges and a bit of back pain so I'm over the moon to see my progress has come along so well. I hope your numbness does eventually go thought but I'm glad you're able to ignore it and get on with life! Also glad it was nothing severely serious after going numb all of a sudden that must of been terrifying! Luckily that didn't happen to me! Yeah I've been told that too and because the nerve was compressed for so long it takes time to adjust going back to normal. How was your surgery did it all go straight forward?

    Thank you very much, I wish you luck too with your recovery & lets finally get on with life pain & sciatica free hopefully forever!!
  • Yes, my first surgery went well, however, I went for my post operative check after 5 weeks and saw a locum doctor instead of my surgeon. He asked me to bend down and touch my toes, now I no my own surgeon had said that I had to avoid such manoeuvres but I trusted the doctor and did as he asked. Unfortunately my disc re herniated as a result and I had to have my second discectomy on May 1st. Since then I have been struggling with a return of my sciatica. I had another MRI which showed a further disc bulge and inflammation plus scar tissue on the sciatic nerve. However, my pain has not eased, despite PT and a busy gym programme. I have another MRI in September so I'm hoping that the disc hasn't prolapsed again because my surgeon says that another prolapse will mean a fusion, aggghhh!

    It's been a difficult year and I'm hoping to put all this behind me, I'm not used to pain and I'm certainly not used to taking pain meds. I'm glad you can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

    Lots of hugs
  • I had my post op on Thursday and the nurse asked me to bend forward and I found it really strange as I've also been told to avoid bending! That's really bad that they asked you to do that and should know that you're not supposed to. i'm only 3 weeks post op too so I hope that doesn't happen to me! How long did it take to realise it had slipped again? I think because my pain has pretty much gone now that i'm hoping that hasn't happened to me! But I am always very warey of what i'm doing as I don't want to go through it again. As for scar tissue can that be removed? Or is it a permanent thing? and does that mean you will always have sciatica? I hope you do get sorted soon, it is a very stressful and just takes over your life completely, its horrible! I wouldn't wish it on anyone :( I hope it doesn't come down to you needing more surgery either :/ That would be the last thing you want after 2 ops! I actually have 2 other discs that aren't looking good but they weren't bulging so nothing was done to them but i'm just PRAYING they don't slip also. I am a smoker and i'm overweight too and I know they don't help at all so as soon as i'm given the all clear I plan on loosing a lot of weight & also stopping smoking! I just want to get back to normal fully & be okay for my son!

    I completely agree i'm always one to put off pain killers unless i'm in dire need and this year I've probably took more than I have in a life time! Thankfully i'm off them now, i hope you are too soon & have a recovery which you can finally see the end nearing with! Hope to hear from you soon :)
  • Michelle99MMichelle99 Posts: 57
    edited 08/30/2015 - 3:26 PM

    I knew straight away that my disc had ruptured, the pain was searing, so, I'm sure you will be fine.

    Good for you considering your diet, I have put a few kgs on since my surgery, mainly because I haven't been too mobile. I've really started hitting the excersises now and I've just joined weight watchers so I'm hoping that shedding the extra pounds will go a long way to helping my recovery.

    It sounds like you are well on the way to recovering and the main thing is to keep positive. Getting back to work and trying to do as many of my interests and hobbies again has really changed my focus. I think after 8 months of having nothing else to think about but my injury did not help me. I'm hoping now that a third surgery is avoidable and I can only keep positive.

    Take care and keep positive, it's great that you are cutting down on the meds.

  • Quick update! So I got this last May 2015, it got to New Years Eve and I was saying to my husband, if I ever turn down surgery shoot me as I was in unbearable pain, I couldn't even bend my knees slightly and pick something off a chair without intense shooting pains. 5 days later Christmas was over and I went back to work, I work from home, in an office chair and after two days the pain started going, each day I realised there was an improvement, within two weeks I had come off the Amytrypiline that gave me 3D nightmares at night and then another two weeks and I stopped taking Co-dydramol and now I'm not taking anything. Absolutely no pain, went back to see surgeon and he said great, he wouldn't operate. My right leg is still incredibly tight, I struggle bending it but I'm doing exercises to try and help it and it's dead, I have a full dead right leg from toes to top of thigh all on the outside. This makes me uphappy a bit but I am grateful for not being in pain and I can walk and run, although not running yet as I know it's still healing. Any lying down with myself raised up on an elbow kicks it off a bit so I know the disc is near to the nerve but slowly shrinking. So my doctor was right, she said it would go, it took 9 months for the pain to go and we are now another two months later and it's still healing. Like she said it would be like a large grape touching on the nerve and you had to give it time to shrivel up like a raisin and come away from the nerve but I never ever want to go through that again. Totally got me down, does really affect your life in every way!
    Know pain, no gain
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