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PT worsening pain?

eas52211eeas52211 Posts: 1
edited 12/04/2015 - 4:53 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all,
I've read these forums a lot, but this is my first post here. I had a pretty typical case of severely herniated L5-S1 - unbearable pain shooting down my leg and foot. I had a micro-D on Sept 25, 2015 (10 weeks ago). I was nearly painfree right after surgery, had a few tweaks in the two weeks after (especially after I was sitting with bad posture on the couch) but everything resolved quickly. My NS recommended I not go for PT until 6 weeks or more after surgery, but suggested I wouldn't need it - that being a mom with 2 young kids would be "plenty of PT." He also told me to never get pregnant again because that would increase my risk of herniating another disc, which was hard to hear because I'm 28 and we were hoping to have one more child. I conferred with my cousin, who is a PT, who spoke with a well-respected NS at her hospital, and he said I should try PT, strengthen my core muscles, and get a second opinion before ruling out having another baby. I'm in otherwise excellent health - about 10 pounds overweight, but no other health issues. The spine specialist I saw said I have DDD, but a few other specialists said my spine is pretty typical for someone who's had 2 kids. I never had back pain before the herniated disc, and I don't have any pain now.

Two weeks ago, I started PT. The therapist gave me some exercises to strengthen my glutes. She also encouraged me to frequently do back extensions (deepen the curve in my lower back), both while standing and while laying down. However, after a few days of doing these exercises, I started feeling the pain down my leg again, though not as bad and was easily remedied by laying flat. I went to another round of PT, where the therapist seemed confused about why that would happen, but she upped the intensity, having me do the exercises incorporating an exercise ball. I did the exercises once, and I quit. I understand some soreness is expected, but no exercise should be replicating the sciatica pain. I've been trying to walk and be on my feet more, but I've not been doing any core strengthening exercises since.

Has this happened to anyone? Is it possible I started PT too soon and should wait for the nerve to calm down? It seems like everyone has a positive experience with PT except for me! Even though my herniation was posterior, is it possible that back extensions would inflame the nerve? I don't really trust doctors right now because nobody believed how much pain I was in until I had an MRI, and then they took me seriously! Now I've had this experience with a PT, and had an equally bad experience.

Thanks for any feedback!


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
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  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 724
    For sure it's possible to start to soon or to over do it. Listen to your body... DON'T over do it. You will have lots of time for PT once your body is ready... and from what you describe clearly it's not ready or you are doing to much. Your surgery was a success... don't spoil all the effort with going overboard with PT and somehow injuring yourself. Try some PT that is less strenuous... go swimming... or some light yoga. For my fusion surgeries my doctor would not let me start PT until at least 3 months post op.
    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
  • Yes, you can inflame the nerve.. with PT or just activities of daily living.
    I would actually call your surgeon and let them know you are having some replication of the pain. Swimming- not a good idea until you are healed, if you actually swim you put a lot of torque pressure on the spine.
    The other thing is that it takes a VERY long time for nerves to heal up and some never really completely do. I'm a month post fusion and 10 months post discectomy and still have a great deal of nerve symptoms... which I accept will likely never go away permanently.
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