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Can anyone share some successful sciatica recovery stories with me?

Mister BoddyMMister Boddy Posts: 2
Greetings everyone! Long time listener, first time caller.

I'm in the middle of an agonising bout of sciatica brought about by two herniated discs (L4 to S1) and pretty much stuck in an Eternal Pit of Despair™, waiting days and weeks between specialist appointments who are all giving me conflicting advice.

I currently cannot walk for more than a few steps without having to lean on something. At this point I have already missed three weeks of work because I cannot sit in the car let alone drive, and the only positions that are relatively pain-free for me are kneeling over the bed, or laying down with two pillows under my knees. Sleep is hard to come by as every movement to shift position is excruciating, and simple things like walking to the kitchen or trying to sit on the toilet are also quite a challenge.

This site has been a godsend, but given that most people still here are either currently enduring pain, or have not had success with their treatment, I was hoping some of the mods or long-term users could perhaps point me in the direction of some success stories of people who healed and moved on, and/or perhaps shed some light on the long string of conflicting information that I have received in the last three weeks of torment, as I could really use a bit of light at the end of the tunnel here.

If you want the long story... (Sorry, I don't know how to make this bit smaller)

I'm a 34 y/o male from sunny Australia who up to now has been very healthy and active, if not slightly overweight. I have a pretty sedentary job, but played ice hockey around 3-4 times as week. Since a squatting injury around a decade ago, I've had maybe 1 back spasm every couple of years, until this year, where I got two spasms each worse than the other, requiring around 2-3 days in bed with valium before I could leave the house again. I'd then get some myotheraphy and would be right as rain.

After this most recent spasm around four weeks ago, I said enough is enough, and went to the GP which started a bit of a cascade of specialists and chronic pain unlike anything I have experienced which I will outline below:

1) Local GP #1 - First time I saw him, as I needed to see someone quick on the weekend. He gave me referrals for MRI and XRay and an RX for Mobic.

2) Osteopath - Never saw one. Didn't want to go to a Chiro. Still only a spasm at this point. Did two sessions of very light counterweight activities, both of which didn't do anything.

3) Myotherapist - Starting to get pain to the left of knee. Thought it was a sore muscle from the spasm.

4) Physio - Pain in left knee worse - Did some taping and light massage.

5) Local GP #2 - Starting to get numbness on top of foot and side of leg and now very painful. Can only walk for a few minutes at a time before needing to lean on something and shake leg out. Took scans to different GP - again, just needed to see someone close to me, as I live around an hour from my GP who I have seen for the past decade +.

MRI Report - L4/5: Dessicated disc. Posterior annular tear with focal left paracentral disc extrusion with inferior subligamentous spread measuring 18mm compressing the descending left L5 nerve root and posteriously displacing the S1 nerve root.

L5/S1 - Midly narrowed dessicated disc with broad-based disc protrusion and posterior annular fissure. Mild canal stenosis with posterior displacement of descending left S1 nerve root.

GP Prescribed Prednisolone and Lyrica, and I also asked for referral for CT Guided ESI which MRI Report also suggested.

6) Normal GP - Called my long-term GP who told me to stay away from Prednisone and Lyrica because of the potential psychiatric side-effects, which to be honest I don't think I could deal with right now. And the more hard-core opiates just knock me out cold, and make me feel really uncomfortable and not 'in control'. Everything else like NSAIDS pretty much just doesn't work, so he advised getting the ESI

7) Got ESI. No result after ten days. Pain seems to have travelled down the leg. Numbness moved from top of foot to bottom of foot.

8) Back to physio. Now in acute pain and attempted dry neednling - Referred to specialist spinal physio. Said I should do everything I can to avoid surgery because even a microdiscectomy and laminectomy might leave you with more pain or start a cascading series of surgeries down the line, and with the spinal fusions, they are finding that the discs above degenerate after around 10 years.

9) Back to normal GP - Got referral for Neurosurgeon.

10) Went to specialist spinal physio. Said was in too much pain to do any real work and wait to see what neurosurgeon said, but I should try to keep moving and active.

11) Went to see a highly-regarded neurosurgeon referred to me from my GP this week who spent around 15 minutes with me and then said I needed double spinal fusion which pretty much put me in mild shock, as that's the last thing I want to even be considering right now. I thought maybe a microdiscectomy and laminectomy, but not something that would require taking my windpipe out and being in the hospital for the week.

He then went on to say that I should lay flat on my back for 2-3 weeks and think about it, that it could get better, and that if all Physiotherapists went out of business overnight the world would be a better place for back pain. I should not stand because it will compress the discs further, and I should maybe wait until I get better and then just walk 40 minutes a day, and never have it touched by anyone else and then rushed off to another appointment.

12) Called specialist spinal physio back and got I sort of thought this was crazy, so I then went back to my specialist spinal physio and asked for another neurosurgeon referral who I am waiting to see for a second opinion next week. I told them about my experience with the neurosurgeon and they told me that I should be moving more and taking Prednisone. The opposite of what my GP and the previous Neuro said.

Basically, each person I see has been telling me something different and I HAVE NO IDEA WHO TO LISTEN TO IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY. I've already spent thousands of dollars in less than a fortnight and pretty much at my wits end.

The pain at the moment I can live with - I can find positions where it doesn't hurt, but I still have no idea what I'm supposed to do between now and my next appointment(s) as nothing here seems to be clear. I thought medicine was supposed to be straightforward, but this is a whole other level of dysfunction it makes my local council look efficient.

All I want to do is get to a point where I can start some long term rehab. If that means surgery, fine. If I should lay down for the next month, fine. If I should walk every hour for two minutes, fine. If I have to sacrifice my second child to the dark lord, fine. All I want at this moment is to hear from some fellow smart people on the internet who might have been through a similar ordeal and come through the other end.

In short!
• How do I figure out who to listen do?
• Who can give me the most accurate advice in terms of whether or not I can fix this without surgery?
• What do I do with myself in between while I am in such pain? Should I try walk? Lay in bed?
• What positions are helpful?
• Is kneeling over the bed on the laptop bad? Are there any other things I should not be doing while trying to recover?
• Can anyone link me to some success stories for anyone who has had similar pain?

Thank you for listening!

(I am now going to post a long success story on another medical support forum for another issue that I lurked on for months years ago but never bothered to contribute my story to because I was too lazy. That changes now - there needs to be more success stories out there!)

Welcome to Spine-Health
Please click on link for helpful information!
~ spine-health moderator, savage


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    You are not alone in experiencing the different advice from different doctors who are all looking at the same images of your spine/test results. Not alone in your frustration.
    Nothing is straight forward, in my experience. As patients, we are so individual that what might work for one would not for another.

    And all doctors are individuals, also.....not all created equal.
    I think you've done good job with getting and or asking for second opinions and nothing wrong with yet another opinion as new eyes are always good, I think.

    It's not easy, but I think it's best when you can find doctor that listens and explains things to you in a way that you understand and where the two of you can then progress on same page as to what to do.
    So much of treatment is trial and try again...as is much of the trying to discover source or cause of pain.

    You mentioned shifting, moving in the bed can be excruciating.
    I lie on top of a sheet, which is over the sheet for the mattress, so it's movable.
    Often times I need to pull on the sheet to assist my change of position. That's so helpful to me.

    Also, wondering if you would benefit, even short term, by using cane to help with walking and also to help raise yourself from sitting to standing position. You could double check with doctor.
    For me, the cane is miracle worker!I don't know how, but lessens the pain.
    Also, helps with my balance and posture, especially for any kind of distance.

    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • My name is Jessica. I have a success story. I suffered from sciatica pain for 18 months before I had my Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) on L4, L5 and S1. When I woke up from anesthesia, my sciatica pain was gone. I couldn't believe it, I am free. Before the surgery, I didn't have a life. I loaded up with 4000 mg ibuprofen daily so I could go to work. I carried an ice sheet wrapped in towel, put it in the seat of my car or chair at work....to freeze-numb my buttock to reduce the pain. Surgery was in May 2014, I am so glad that I decided to go ahead with the surgery. I still have to be careful not to lift heavy stuffs (20 to 25 lbs max) . I kayaked in Alaska 2 months post-Op and I recently kayaked in the Yellowstone Lake for 4 days. You are a lot younger than I am...your recovery could be faster and better. Good luck in your decision.
    Jessica Ling

    ALIF on 5/20/2014
    L4,L5 and S1
  • Amy27AAmy27 Posts: 1
    edited 09/26/2015 - 6:02 AM
    RFA relieved most of my sciatic pain after 17 years of suffering ! You have to recover from the injury created by the procedure -for me that could be 2-4 weeks -then all the sudden I realise - I'm not in horrible pain ! I take narcotic pain medicine for another condition -but that with the RFA was nothing short of miraculous ! Recommend using a clinic that uses IV sedation - pain meds during procedure -with less procedure pain you'll likely recover more quickly and want to return as soon as the nerves start to grow back to have the procedure repeated ! RFA can only be repeated every 6 months : my first grate mend only lasted 4 months but the next two lasted 7-9 months - best thing that ever happened ! Good luck to you !

    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    ~ spine-health moderator, savage
    Amy shew
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859
    That is just the nature of online medical sites. People register because they are having problems and are looking for answers. They get to meet a number of people and have meaningful discussions and get answers.

    While they are in pain is when you will hear the most from them. Asking questions, trying to find other options, listening to what others have done and experienced. And you have many that had bad outcomes from their surgeries. So, you will hear a lot from them.

    However, when surgery helps a person or another treatment does and they start to feel better and better, their time online here starts to decrease. Almost to the point that when they are relatively pain free, they stop posting.

    I am very happy for those folks. They came here for a purpose, received solid support and now that they are doing ok, they move onward.
    Still from time to time, those members drop in to say hello. Just the other night, a long time member (Cindy) stopped in to post. They never forget what they learned here.

    So, that may be one of the reasons why you dont hear that many success stories. I've started threads on this subject, because I think it is so positive for everyone to see how things can turn out for the better.
    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
  • I have a success story. I suffered with low back pain and sciatica radiating down to my left leg with pins and needles. I was unable to sit, drive, or even stand without crying in pain. All this time I tried chiro, physio, acupuncture etc but relief lasted only for few hours. I was put on lyrica, vimovo and morphine for pain. Lyrica was causing whole lot of other issues including weight gain. My pain got so bad that I was unable to get out of the bed and had to call ambulance. In the hospital I was told that my L5 S1 disc was herniated. Needless to say my GP said I should try conventional treatment atleast for 6 months before considering surgery. Meanwhile I was off work for over 8 weeks. I stumbled across another forum where someone recommended reading John E Sarno's Healing Back Pain. I would highly recommend reading the book. It definitely helped me understanding my condition. I can say that I am 90% pain free without surgery. I did continue with the physio for 3 months but stopped taking all the medication and can manage my life without them. I am able to do my daily chores without bothering about hurting myself. Surgery is not the long term fix with this, you must consider alternative treatment and above all try to be active and stay positive. I know it is easier said than done but trust me it is possible.
    Good Luck.
  • Sophie60SSophie60 Posts: 1
    edited 10/01/2015 - 11:10 PM
    Hi all.
    I know how you feel Mr Boddy. Have had similar experiences to you. Also in Australia and dealing with lots of conflicting advice from medical professionals.
    I have a bulging disc L4-L5, a herniated disc L5-S1 with S1 nerve impingement , other issues with discs and scoliosis thrown in for good measure. It all started after mad gardening for a whole week, unloading heavy banana trunks from a trailer, going overboard with physio exercises then overdoing the housework. All self - inflicted because I failed to realise the limitations of a middle-aged sedentary woman.
    After numerous doctor appointments, trip to Emergency by ambos, CT, MRI, standing full spine scan, epidural shot (useless) and spinal surgeon no one could really help with my extreme pain, incapacity and prognosis.
    My extreme pain was in the middle of my left hamstring - felt like someone had a huge knife constantly pushing in. Also had the numbness, tingling, zapping sensation down the outside of the thigh radiating down the outside calve into all my toes nicely accompanied by shooting muscle spasms.
    For pain I started on Panadol and Voltarin - both useless, then started on Targin (oxycodone) which needs major warnings for the horrible side-effects. I started popping them like lollies till I think I nearly overdosed then had 2 days of hell without any meds and now on reducing strengths to completely get off them.
    While being bed-bound for 1&1/2 months, in extreme pain and being totally dependant on my wonderful family I did a lot of research on my iPad and found a way to reduce my pain.
    Bear with my detailed explanation but this really worked in my case.
    After moving all over the house to set up camp with my pillows and meds I found my lounge with the chaise lounge part the best to lie on. When ever I have to get up and rush for the toilet or hot and cold packs the pain sets in and stays when I lie straight down BUT if I lie on my stomach first, with a folded doona under my torso, my head hanging slightly over the edge of the chaise lounge with my head supported by the corner of a hardish pillow- (move your neck and pillow till it feels comfortable), then the pain will slowly ebb away - sometimes takes up to 20 mins.
    I call my body position the crime scene position. My head is turned to the left, my left arm and left leg are bent at roughly 90 , my right arm is straight by my straight right leg. Then swap the sides.
    After the pain goes, VERY carefully and gently roll onto the good side with a pillow/s supporting your neck and between your legs. I also use a big european pillow to lean against. I am pain free with slight twitches until I get up again. NOW I use alternating hot and cold packs on my back even though the pain is only in my leg. I was only using heat packs initially and found using both much helpful . This is all a bit convoluted but worth the effort.
    I had a wonderful physio come to my home who taught me some gentle movements and did some opening up of my lower spine by gentler moving and pulling on my left leg. She advised me that if she was me she would try exercise before any surgery which I agree with as I could not handle any worse pain or any complications.
    I still can't drive, sit or stand for long but my pain level has really decreased and I'm able to very slowly see improvements everyday.
    I believe my physio has started the ball rolling and with regular movement I will hopefully get better.
    My advice is to firstly try and manage the pain, then slowly move, then do some rehab if you have muscle weakness.
    I will go back to my physio, then try hydrotherapy and will get a TENS machine to help with pain and muscle stimulation.
    I hope my advice helps someone - there is light at the end of the tunnel but it can take a while to get there so be patient and try everything you can.

    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    ~ spine-health moderator, savage
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