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New to this forum, L5/S1 problem...

ShionSShion Posts: 4
About three years ago I started training in a gym. I was completely inexperienced and didn't know what I was doing... But being cocky and 19, and thinking I knew better than everyone else, I decided I'd start looking up information on my own and train myself.

I started deadlifting... Horrible, horrible form. At first I was doing okay despite the bad form, and managed to deal with 225 pounds just fine. The bar, if I remember correctly, was always about a foot away from my feet. That was my starting position. For those that don't know, the bar should be directly above the center of the feet.

I felt a rip in my lower back. I was in bed for a week, completely unable to move or do anything without feeling excruciating pain. As time went on, I began to feel gradually better. A month later, I was fine, or so I felt...

I decided to do things differently and went on to inform myself on proper form. I started squatting, and for a few months things were going well. I was so disciplined in my working out that I could not conceive missing a single day, and so one day after a long shift at work, and being completely exhausted, I still went... To squat.

My back rounded on the last repetition and I felt and heard a pop in my back. The pain has never stopped since, and I went to a doctor a few months ago.

I was diagnosed with a herniated disc. It would seem the swelling is 2cm long, pressing on my sciatica. I felt constant pain running down my left leg, and sometimes my right leg too. The local pain was bad... I felt it right at the top of my buttcrack all the way up to where the laterals meet, right above the lower back.

My doctor had me take three cortisone shots. They helped a lot with the pain going down the legs, but the local pain is still the same... And going back to the first injury, deadlifting, that produced an unbalance in my pelvis. It's higher on the right side, and I think that has a lot to do with why the swelling of the disc has not gone down, because there's always one side pressing more than the other. I could be wrong, but I think it's plausible...

So are there any experiences resembling mine? I don't know what to do... I love lifting, I love it to death, and I don't want to stop. I still do it but of course I don't do any deadlifting, squatting, or any exercise which involves my lower back any more than I'd like.

I saw a physical therapist after my first injury. Of course things weren't as bad back then, but she said I had a weak left gluteus medius, and that had caused the weak muscle to transfer more load than the back could handle, which lead to the injury...

So to summarize, I have a herniated disc pressing on my left sciatica and an unbalanced pelvis. I'm scheduled to see my doctor either next monday or the monday after. Are there any treatment options I should consider over others?

Thanks, and sorry for the long read.


  • Hi Shion -
    I herniated L5-S1 in May 2006, I went downhill very fast in December 2006 (and by this I mean numbness in my foot and calf). The herniation was on the left side. I had a discectomy in Jan 2007, immediate relief and most of the feeling back in the foot + leg. I re-herniated in December 2007 (December seems to be a bad month for me!) Since then, 2 cortisone shots (with very temporary relief) and trying meds for pain relief (amitriptyline, vicodin, now on topomax and tramadol, jury still out). So I have 2 points in all of this -

    1. Your level of pain will determine your course of action. If you can manage the pain on meds, phys therapy, cortisone shots, then you make it work. If you lose feeling in your limbs or really take a turn for the worse, or you cannot tolerate the day to day pain (which is how I'm starting to feel) then consider surgery.

    2. If you have surgery, you increase the chance of a future surgery. This is just my opinion, please take it as such. Many people who have discectomy surgery end up re-herniating the same disc; at that point many have fusion, putting additional pressure on other discs, increasing the chance of herniating those discs, you see where I'm going with this. Surgery isn't always a choice, usually those who have it have no choice, but I equate it to one of my favorite lines from Star Wars, "once you start down the dark path..." (okay I'm a dork, but I have to look for the humor in these things).

    Hope some of this is helpful, remember its just one point of view.
    Best of luck to you.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,877
    For an introduction, CLick on :

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    The improper technique of weight lifting could have definitely created your problem. But you are not alone. Sometimes, its jut the improper techniques of bending, lifting and carrying objects can also create disc problems.
    From reading your post, it seems that you went to at least some doctor that specializes in spines (perhaps since you love the gym, an Orthopedic doctor) I assume a MRI was done to provide you with the results you have. Did they tell you what disc is damage and to what degree. The fact that it is pressing on the nerve is what is causing your sciatic problem. The cortisone shots are designed to reduce some of the inflammation to help minimize that pain. I believe you should be looking at other conservative treatments. With
    disc problems, I also believe you should be seeing a Neurologist and/or Neurosurgeon. They are best qualified in dealing with the spine, especially when there is nerve damage. Some of the treatments you can look at are
    Physical Therapy, Aqua Therapy, Massage Therapy, Heat/Ice Treatments, Ultrasound, Passive Traction, Spinal Injections, Acupuncture to name a few. I firmly believe that you should exhaust all of these treatments before considering surgery. But that final decision is really up to your doctor and yourself. When you have a disc that is pressing on a nerve root, postponing surgery can potentially lead to a longer period of time for the nerve to heal.

    Work with your doctor, do a lot of research regarding the lumbar discs. You will find tons of information on this site, not just in these message boards.

    Good luck... The best news is that lumbar surgery is becoming more and more common and success is high. But you always have to remember that when you have any type of spinal disc surgery, you may not be able to do all the things you did in the past. But again, that is something only your doctor can tell you for sure
    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
  • Oh yeah, I definitely don't want surgery. From what I've read, fused vertebræ just don't function the same way at all... And I don't want to stop lifting. It's the only sport I do, and the only one I've ever thoroughly enjoyed, despite the troubles it has caused me.

    The damaged disc is L5/S1. The herniation, my doctor told me, is 2cm long. I don't know how big or small this is in comparison to the average case, but 2cm sticking out of my spine sounds pretty huge to me. I took my appointment to see the doctor, but apparently she's on vacation... So my appointment is for the first week of september! I don't want to wait that long. Should I go see someone immediately, or should I just wait it out?

    Also, my pain is not that severe. I go through my day just fine and I'm never on pain meds. It just hurts when I bend certain ways, and I'm just a lot weaker than I used to be... And I want to, one day, do deadlifts and squats again. I love bodybuilding, and I really don't want to stop unless I absolutely have to.

    After the second, most serious injury, I started treating myself. I used to not be able to straighten my legs out completely in front of me if I was sitting down (assuming a 90 degree angle with the torso), and now I can touch my toes standing up with my legs completely straight. I can bend in every direction without much pain, but sometimes it hurts and I have to bend as far back as I can to make the spine 'snap' back into place (like cracking your fingers). That brings me immediate relief. I'm pretty sure this isn't natural.
  • The best advice my surgeon passed along to me -
    "Let pain be your guide"

    If you want to wait until September, or see another doc sooner, its really your call, how you need to manage your pain and your injury. And good to hear you view surgery as a last resort, it should never be option #1 unless you're in acute pain with no means of managing it.
  • hello, i'm a almost 30yr and i had hurt my back at work. i was lifting and bending when i felt this pop and crack sound and then i couldn't get back up and i thought the breath was gone from me. i couldn't hardly breath it hurt so much. i asked my co-worker to get the boss and call 911 i thought i was dying! i had herinated L-5 and s-1. i have the same very pain you feel but much worse than you. my pain feel like it starts in my toes works up to my hip joint then up my spine then back down all over again. my doctors can't figure it out but i tell them i can't stand the pain my my left leg they said i had a pinched sciatia nerve. so they gave me si injections and facet joint injections which didn't help me in any way but worsen it for me. i have had 3 rounds of esi and none of them helped either, so where are we now still hurting and can't work!

    tell me more about your recovery and how you feel keep in touch ok!

    yep we are somewhat alike but different in pain levels!
  • I worked in a Commercial Laundry for Ten Years , Lifting and twisting , unloading 40 kilo washing machines and filling them with Heavy Cotton Sheets and towels. I never knew where I was heading and was continually cracking my back to get relief. I have had Major Surgery at L5/S1 and it was a last resort as I firmly believe it should be. Somehow I agree about Pain being the guide. I believe Pain also tells us to STOP.I have had the type of pain that you are describing and I was most concerned when this occured ! Knowing what I know now , I would be very concerned about lifting to much if I had your on-going problem. There is no turning back if we push it to far. I used to think I really had to be doing something near on impossible before I was happy with my degree of exercise , I was like a bull at a gate ! I now believe that walking is the one safest , most effective forms of exercise and that it is the continuity of daily exercise that is the winner. I used to throw myself into things , stop and then do it again . Steady steady is how I have learnt to be and I learnt the very hard way , I would not wish this on anyone. I first felt Pain lifting Heavy things when I was 20 years old and I truly believe that that weakness stayed with me all theae years. The more lifting I did the greater the problem ever so slowly became. Lifting heavy things would not be good for anyone long term but for anyone with a pre - existing injury , I firmly believe from my own experience , we are playing with fire. They say it is to late to shut the gate after the horse has bolted and I that is my story, I was nieve and did not know the severity of what could happen to me.Our backs are so sacred . All the Best
  • I first started having pain down the back of my left leg in Jan this year, my job is desk bound. In May this year it became too uncomfortable to sit for long periods of time so my doctor signed me off, I then had an MRI scan which diagnosed me havng a herniated disc on my L5/L$ affectng my S1 nerve. I am now scheduled to have a micro discectomy and would definately recommend this option. The consultant said if I re-herniated (quite rare) then he would then and only then recommend a spinal fusion. I think re-herniation is all dependant on how you deal with your recovery and remember that you have got a weakended back, for instance being a single mum I know I wont be moving the furniture around after like I used to, I will swallow my pride and ask a friend to help me. I know now since May the pain with me is a lot worse and sometimes I have 2/3 days a week in bed cos its so bad. As much as I am nervous for the op I know it will definately put me on the pain to recovery, I know an cannot carry on ageng another 5 years every 2/3 weks with the pain. Hope this helps. PM me if you need to xxx
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