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herniated and bulging disks plus lower back pain

undecideduundecided Posts: 1
edited 07/19/2015 - 9:57 PM in Lower Back Pain
About 8 weeks ago I started feeling a tightness in my lower back. I did not think much of it and I continued about my business. When in the gym, I would stretch it by hanging from the monkey bars. After 3 weeks or so of it not getting better I decided to see a back specialist. They had x-rays done, did not see anything wrong with the vertabrae (spacing and alignment was fine). Was told to give it a couple more weeks and call back if it does not get better.
Well, two weeks later, it had not improved and they prescribed PT. A week after that I started PT. During their evaluation, they suspected a disk issue based on the fact that I could not bend forward at all and also the fact that when I sneezed it hurt right in the lower back.
So, I started on a twice a week regiment and I also did the exercises at home or gym twice a day.
I am an active 49 year old male, play sports almost daily in the summer and never had a back issue before.
The symptoms were lower left back pain radiating from right above the left buttocks. Impossible to bend forward and if I did try, then significant tightness of the abdomen would occur right afterwards where it felt like it was hard to breathe.
After a week of PT a friend suggested a licensed massage therapist he said helped his back a lot. So I had a couple of sessions with her. Within two days of each session, the back felt a lot better. But, right after some sports it would worsen again.
At this time I did not suspect a serious back problem yet as there were no neurological symptoms.
After a couple more weeks of PT and this see saw of getting better and then worse after physical activity, I went for an MRI.
The results are: L3-4 Minimal Disk Bulge.
L4-5, Very mild disk bulging.
L5-S1, Small central disk herniation to the left. Mild thecal sac deformity. abuts the crossing left nerve root without significant deformity or displacement.
I am currently on vacation but my doctor wants to meet and discuss after I get back.
What do you guys think? I definitely do not like the prospect of any surgery. I would also like to get back to my active lifestyle. Should I refrain doing any sports right now?

There is nobody on the forum qualified or permitted to interpret or advise on a an MRI this is something you need to discuss with your doctor



  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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  • For me, an active lifestyle after discovering spine degeneration should be completely different from what many consider "an active lifestyle." I might as well throw away the dumbbells I own that are above 5 pounds. (Technically, they are being used to hold my baby boy's jumper in place.) I don't jog. No biking. No sports. Here's why:

    I NEED my spine to get through each day. Before, I didn't even know its parts, how they worked, or what it could endure. Now, it's weaker and I'm intimately familiar with it. It's susceptible to degenerative change and that fact scares me because an "injury" for us is more than temporary pain...It is disability, regret, doctor's visits, anxiety, and sometimes despair.

    So, what I do to remain active is to walk. I walk outdoors and seek out shade. I have a yoga strap that helps me to do a couple stretches approved by my PT. My PT also showed me a few light exercises to do on a yoga ball. I do these without weight. Recently, I've found that squatting (with no weight) helps reduce my pain level. I'm 35, and I work out like I'm much older because I simply want to stay conditioned in order to help preserve this precious gift of a spine. I've previously went "off the map" when it comes to exercise and what my PT has guided me through and approved. I've lived to regret this. If I were wiser, I would have known better, but we are human and we learn through mistake.
  • Firstly I would lke to say what an excellent post by Bman. Very sensible and helpful.

    OK to comment on the opening post.

    Perhaps the frst thing to do is educate and educate yourself. By that mean read and learn enough to ask the right questions of those who have studed backs. You could start with the immense amount of info on these pages here at Spine-health. Then add to this info and research 'back pain myths'. Then look at the work by Dr Sarno - it is interesting.

    When you are doing all this research perhaps try and avoid sitting down whilst surfing...maybe on a swiss ball or a standing desk?

    In terms of exercises and sports the theme (in my opinion) should be to do everything very very slowly. Go for full-body activities which would include walking (Nordic?) and swimming and aqua walking. On no account do anything competitve - especially against yourself. No Personal bests etc.

    That would suggest yoga and bodyweight exercises but again be very careful as some yoga poses worsen backs, injured backs. Get into dialogue with those on youtube videos who offer routines - it is surprising how many people who produce the videos DO respond.

    You have a meeting with your doctor. Prepare questions - and answers and see if he agrees. Often there are conflicting 'answers' on the web.

    Mind-Body. Be positive, enquiring, grateful etc - don't let stress, depression, worry make things worse.

    Report back here too - share what you learn....
  • PaulD. Dodson2PPaulD. Dodson2 Posts: 1
    edited 07/29/2015 - 10:15 PM
    I used to lift weights as well (26 years) and had muscle spasms slowly develop in the same way you described. It sounds like you are slowly crushing a disc. I would back off on the heavy weight and do the little yoga exercises religiously. This helps because bench press, dead lift and squats only work the major muscle groups. Not the little synergistic muscles. Not trying to scare you, but it could get worse if you keep lifting. I finally had to have one fusion in my upper back and two in my lower, and then some.-Paul

    Warning... It is a forum violation to attempt to diagnose another member's problem. . Also always remember, what is good for one patient may cause problems with another patient. That is why it is so very important to discuss everything with your doctor before you try any new exercise, diet or gadget - Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator 07/23/15

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  • I agree with Paul D. that heavy weight is dangerous. I hate the fact that "heavy" could vary so much from person to person. That makes it so difficult to pin down what weight is dangerous. In the past, during a few gym visits, I would lift as much as I could for 6 reps to failure. That is a lot of weight, and it felt good (almost like doing the impossible).

    I didn't know I was taxing my Central Nervous System and fracturing my skeleton. (At a dental visit, they told me I was bearing down so hard on my teeth that I caused them to crack. They told me to buy a mouth guard.) For many of us, the answer to a healthier spine lies in just letting go of the pure drive that forces us to wreck our bodies. That applies in sports, gyms, and any physical activity. (I decided to give up stair stepping because I know I'd wreck my knees.) (My dentist also told me I brush way too hard, I'm OCD about brushing, and I'm wearing away my gums.)

    We are wonderful and driven beyond perfection to improve ourselves at all costs. Our bodies can't take it, though, and if you have that type of personality (or one that is similar), you need to avoid the situations that allow you to drive yourself to the brink and beyond.
  • dammut bman where were u ten years ago . this is exactly what i wish i knew back then
  • As I've said in other posts, I'm a long time sufferer of back pain. I was once extremely active. Have my black belt, was a wrestler, weight lifter, was in the Navy. Then when I hit 22 my life changed. I injured myself the first time. Well, 15 years And a lot of pain later I have 8 blown discs, am in constant states of pain to agony, and have had to change the way I do everything. As another poster said, an injury to our spines aren't just a boo boo. Its potentially crippling. Walking is extremely important as is daily(multiple if possible) stretching. Your PT can guide you toward exercises that fit your specific tolerance level. No one person here can tell you what to do, since we all have varying levels of disability. What you can do may destroy what's left of my spine.
    Most importantly. DON'T RUSH IT. I wish I had learned that lesson years ago. I tried to rush everything and in the long run it has made things so much worse. In at the point where I don't know if I can continue working. And don't know where to turn for it.

    Be safe, be well.
    Herniations T3/T4, T4/T/5, T5/T6, T6/T7
    L2/L3, L3/L4, L4/L5, L5/S1
    Surgery to correct in 2005, reinjured 2012
    Zero stability or movement in base of spine. Impingement on both sides of spine, with varying pain/numbness on both sides.
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