Late last year, I suffered an injury to my lower back which was 'diagnosed' by a doctor as simply a back strain that would go away quickly with some stretching, and he advised keeping active and playing sport. This I did and my condition got much better, I was able to play sport and run within a couple of months like before, but I still had pain, especially an almighty stiffness in the morning. It felt good to play sport and run, and the discomfort was mostly when sitting or when lying for a long time. I am 18 years old.
However, my condition worsened in mid-March (just over 3 months after initial injury thereabouts) after a weekend of heavy sport and I had clear signs of sciatica in my left leg. Losing faith in the doctors and my GP, I went to a chiropractor who diagnosed a herniated disc, I think L-5 S-1, although he said it is relatively minor. I didn't go for an MRI. That was 4 weeks ago. I got treatment twice a week, then once a week now it will be once a fortnight as I seem to have made good progress.
I am wondering how long a disc injury like this may take to heal so I can begin playing sports again? I have asked my chiropractor and he just says 'when it is better - don't rush it', but is it possible to aim for a certain amount of time? It has been 4 weeks and my condition has improved a lot. The sciatica died down within a week of treatment (it was bad on the first day, very inflamed too) but I still have it now - and I get worried because I expect it to disappear any time but it doesn't seem to. I get a twinge in my calf and hamstring from time to time, although I appreciate it could be a lot worse. Some days I don't feel it at all, so when I do start feeling it, I panic, and think it might be getting worse. I think most of all I fear a relapse, and just want it to get better.
It does feel much better overall, I have less trouble with my mobility (easier to put socks on, get in and out of bed, far less stiff in the morning) and the pain is very bearable, and I never took pain killers. At this very moment all I can feel is a twinge at the bottom of my left calf. I can walk fine, although it does get a little uncomfortable. My chiropractor does a leg raise which shows there is much less nerve impingement (raises very nearly as high as my right when lying down) and I can bend forward a fair bit without much pain. Initially my chiropractor said 6-8 weeks with no sport but I don't think I could physically run at the moment. I'm hoping to be better in 4-6 weeks and be able to play sport again, but is this too ambitious?
I get very paranoid (considering I have been suffering with back problems for around 5 months now), and I know my condition could be much worse with this type of injury, but based on my symptoms is it likely it is only minor? Can a more serious disc injury also have mild symptoms? When I first got sciatica I actually woke up with it, and it was 2-3 days AFTER I played any sport, so it was not something sudden, and I didn't feel my back 'go'. Am I simply getting too far ahead of myself and expecting the sciatica to disappear completely too soon? When and how does sciatica generally begin to disappear? What sort of signs shall I look for, in general? And what should I avoid doing to make it worse (apart from sport, impact exercise and lifting of course). At the moment I ice it around 4 times a day, generally after I do some exercises my chiropractor gave me. I usually walk about 3 miles a day too. Lying down on a firm mattress on my side is very comfortable (tends to alleviate symptoms if I have any at that point) and I sleep okay. Sitting can get quite uncomfortable (although I am used to keeping my back straight by now) - although can certain types of chairs be bad for this?
I really hope I can make a full recovery without any complications and would love to be able to play sport in the next month or two as summer is coming. I have been active all my life and would dread not being able to play sport and run like I used to. Thank you very much for reading and good luck to everyone with these back problems!
- Moderator note: See Lumbar Herniated Disc