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L5_S1 herniated disc - Sciatica first timer here who could use some support

Mike TMMike T Posts: 4
Hello all, thank you for taking the time out to read my post. I'm new here and new to my spine problem. I'm hoping someone can point me in the right direction or provide me some comfort if at all. I appreciate your time, thanks again.

I'm a 36 year old male who about a month ago or during the holiday season started experiencing a "pain in the butt" type of experience. At first I thought it was no big deal and started applying heat and massaging the area. I probably would have never thought I had a herniated disc had I never experienced numbness at the bottom of my foot going up to my calf. Thankfully I'm not in pain where I just feel discomfort and stiffness in my lower back and buttocks with some burning sensation at times. It's the numbness that has me worried the most.

I went to a Neurologist who sent me for an MRI which determined a .5 millimeter disc herniation along with something minor in L4 . The doctor advised not to do surgery at this time since I'm not in pain, just discomfort. He also said I should not take an epidural because whatever I'm feeling may or may not go away where he does not think it will help with numbness and is afraid I could become a diabetic. He did prescribe some pain killers however advised not to take them unless I'm in pain. He said physical therapy may help however doubts it. The doctor unfortunately said there is nothing I can do. I asked if losing weight would help and he said it might however the damage is already done.

IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO? I don't want to live like this for the rest of my life or until it's so bad I decide to go for surgery.

I did try physical therapy however that didn't go so well. They put me on a chair which stretched my back then did a massage and during the massage it was like the sciatica got worse where I had a spasm or worse. I couldn't even move. I eventually had to get up but was in what was probably one of the worst pains I have ever experienced in my life. I complained to them and they started acupuncture to relieve the pain which did go down thankfully. I left that place thinking I would never go back.

I'm 6'1 and weigh 314 lbs currently where I have already lost approx. 15 to 20 pounds already just from changing my diet by trying to eating healthy rather than what I was doing before by eating out and etc.

I've seen plenty of videos on stretching and want to start exercising however I'm worried of making this worse. I just don't know what to do at this point and could really use some advice. I know there are many of you out there with this or similar or even worse problems.

Thanks again for your time. I greatly appreciate it.

-Mike T.

Lumbar Herniated Disc

What's a Herniated Disc, Pinched Nerve, Bulging Disc?


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I started experiencing sciatic leg pain around 2007 and had a series of 3 steroid/cortisone injections and that helped alleviate the problem for about 8 years until last year in February. I think it was due to my pregnancy and decided to repeat the same injections with my pain specialist but this time those didn't work for me. This past Nov. I had discectomy surgery in Florida with a spine specialist but I am still not fully recovered. Some days it hurts a lot, they say it could take up to 4 months for pain to go away...so I am being patient. I recommend those steroid/cortisone injections on the site with a specialist and see if those work like they did for me the first time around. The problem is who know when the pain returns. Whoever out there has gone through a similar experience send me a message as to what are the expectations or how long does the pain go away after a discectomy.
    Sometimes I feel like going to another specialist and get a second opinion on finding out what is going on. I feel so desperate at times.
  • Thanks mncantu1496 for your reply and sharing your story, I hope you feel better soon and wish you a speedy recovery.

    I'm thankfully not in pain however am in discomfort along with foot numbness. My Neurologist advised not to take any injections for now as he worries it could cause diabetes in my case. I've begun dieting and have already lost around 20 pounds. I'm hoping and thinking that losing weight will help as it should take pressure off? No?

    I'm honestly completely lost and don't know what to do. I'm concerned with the results from the MRI and don't want to further damage my nerves. I'm not sure who to go to next or what to do from here. I'm considering on finding a spine specialist. I just want the pain/discomfort in the butt and foot numbness to go away.

    My MRI results...

    1. "L5/S1 left paramedian posterior disc herniation on left ventral thecal sac, impressing, flattening and posterolatterlly displacing the left S1 nerve root, impinging it against the left facet with left lateral recess stenosis."

    2. "L4/5 left posterolateral disc herniation into the left neural foramen with a radial annular tear. The left L4 nerve root is nearly abutted. Its postion is displaced posterolaterally in the foramen, however. Broad extension of the disc impresses on the ventral thecal sac."

    3. "Posterior disc bulges impressing on the thecal sac at T11/12 and L1/2 through L3/4"

    4. "L3/4 borderline central spinal stenosis"

    5. "Upper left convexity of the lumbar curvature."
  • Have you considered speaking to your doctor about a short course prednisone taper? In some cases, this can be very helpful in reducing the inflammation arising from the disc issue.
    Congratulations on the weight loss. ..I also committed to losing weight as part of my search for pain relief thinking that anything and everything I could do to ease the pressure on my back would be worth the effort. My issues are different from yours, however, and after exhausting conservative treatments, had a 2 level fusion 2 weeks ago.
    I'm not trying to insult your doctor, but I have just never been a fan of the "there's nothing we can do" attitude...I believe it only leads to feelings of hopelessness for we patients when HOPE that there is the possibility of getting better is so instrumental in keeping us going mentally when our bodies are telling us that our physical health futures might be somewhat uncertain.
    This site has so many AMAZING people and resources as I've come to discover in my short time of being part of these forums! Please don't ever think that there's any kind of pain level hierarchy--I've not seen evidence of that ANYWHERE here. I know you said you are experiencing discomfort rather than pain, but mental anguish over what's happening to you is pain, too, and based on the myriad of posts I've read, not a soul on this site would EVER minimize what you are experiencing.
    Please try to keep a firm grip on your hope...the nice thing about that is that it doesn't require any bending, lifting, twisting, or physical therapy to do it! Peace! :-D
    Kimmy72, Spine-health Moderator
    Firm believer in PMA!
  • Hi, Mike, sorry you are going thru this! one thing I would suggest is seeing an orthopedic doctor. I understand that the pain is a nerve issue, but the nerve issue is being caused by a bone issue and your neurologist may not be the person to best advise on this. I was diagnosed with spondylisthesis, L5-S1. I was referred to an orthopedic doctor and our conversation went something like Doc: "Have you tried PT, Chiro, do you want to try shots..." Me: "yes, yes, no" Doc: "we can do some PT again if you want but the bottom line is your back is hosed!" Me: "Fix it!" and we were on the road to surgery. Find out who is the best bone man/woman in town and go to them. It's your back, it's worth it!
  • Kimmy72, thank you so much for your kind words! I go through waves where I lose hope and regain it. That's exactly how I felt about the doctor where I was like what do you mean there is nothing that can be done!? He told me that physical therapy may help however doubted it. Prescribed some Gabapentin which he also said would probably not help my situation. I looked up Prednisone taper and found out it's a steroid. Unfortunately I'm being advised not to take steroids for now due to my over weight and was once borderline diabetic. The numbness at the bottom of my foot appears to be S1 since it's mostly bothering me on the side of the foot, heel and the 2 middle fingers. I do feel tightness and discomfort in my lower back in addition to the pain in my butt when I sneeze, cough or laugh too hard.

    There is no chance this will go away on it's own or heal by itself? Should I try physical therapy? I just don't know what to do and hope it doesn't get worse.

    Thanks again

  • For helping me to become more educated about the possible negative consequences of prediabetes and steroids!
    My experience with gabapentin was this-- it did calm my nerve pain, but I had the additional factor of getting the styarter dose as a sample pack from pain management doc and working through the cumulative phase only to have my health insurance deny the claim. Withdrawal from THAT stuff was hideous to say the least. I am only bringing that up because why put a patient on a drug that you don't think will work when the process of building that up in the patient's system (4-6 weeks) could be time spent exploring options that your physician feels has a better shot at helping you? That was a tough lesson to me about being a better consumer of healthcare services. I think I could have saved my body from that hellish withdrawal had I been more attentive to the fine print. Gabapentin might work for you....so might a bevy of other options including the physical therapy you mentioned...everyone's situations are as unique as their fingerprints. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all in terms of pain management. The experimentation phase in trying to figure out what works and what doesn't can certainly try one's sanity on many levels. I will openly admit it did mine. It's not easy, but as Ron (moderator) reminded me--Rome wasn't built in a day. ..I
    Kimmy72, Spine-health Moderator
    Firm believer in PMA!
  • I'm so sorry to hear you're having these issues! I agree with the poster who suggested that you see an orthopedic doctor. I found them to be more helpful. Also, pain management doctors can help, but they will probably want to do injections or at least prescription meds. I would ask around and get recommendations from others or online, and start getting 2nd or even 3rd opinions. That's what I did and a lot of times it helped to have a fresh pair of eyes take a look at things. Also, I do think that losing weight should certainly help take some of the pressure off the nerves. Good luck to you!
    1 1/2 years chronic pain in butt, hip, and sometimes low back. 7 steroid injections (piriformis, s1, si joint, hip joint). Hip labral repair arthroscopic surgery 12/2015. Sciatic neurolysis 12/2015.
  • lanikallanika Posts: 2
    edited 01/28/2016 - 8:59 PM
    I had the same thing last year this time. For me it also started around the holidays 2014. I went to a physical therapist. It didn't really help. One day after a massage it got much worse, so I stopped going. What worked best for me is daily walks and avoiding to sit down for long. I also went swimming a few times a week, which also helped. It also helped to sleep on my stomach (I had the strongest pain every morning after getting up and I couldn't sleep on my side at all). I had strong pain last January and February and by May it was a little better. Then I discovered turmeric. I took it for a week and my pain was almost gone.[edit] . Now I'm still taking turmeric once in a while on a maintenance basis. On a scale of 1 to 10, my pain last year this time was maybe a 7. Now it's mostly gone. Once in a while I still feel a slight sensation in the low back reminding me that there used to be an issue there. But it's not a pain, more like a slight burning sensation.

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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator
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