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L5-S1 Impingement from herniated disc

SteveASSteveA Posts: 26
Well, this is my first time posting here, so I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Steve and at 19 years old, I am probably the youngest person ever to post on this forum. I am 6'1, 215lbs and currently a sophomore at Rutgers University double majoring in Economics and Biology with the future plans of going to Medical school.

And to the issue at hand, as I have learned from an MRI done sometime around November 1st, I have DDD running down from L3 to L5, a bulging disc at L2 and L3, a herniated disc at L4 with moderate nerve impingement, and what my Sports Medicine Doc states is "Quite an impressive herniation with obvious impingement on L5-S1."

Before I continue--I'd like to share a little bit more about myself, and apologize in advance for going into such detail about my issue. I'm just worried I'm never going to be able to do the things I've taken for granted in the past. I'm extremely active (or I should say was extremely active). Through my youth I played football, and in high school I started Wrestling, playing football, and throwing the shot-put, discus, and javelin during track season. I was a Varsity starter as a Freshmen in Wrestling and Track. I believe I can pinpoint where my back problems began right here as I weighed in at 205lbs but wrestled in the 275lbs weight class--as a result my back took a lot of pounding from larger individuals. Continuing through high school, and on to my senior year I was a state ranked wrestler, an All-County DE in Football, and all county shot-put thrower in Track and Field. I received scholarships to go to several schools for wrestling, but decided on going to Rutgers because they offered me a full tuition scholarship because I didn't want to wrestle as a Freshmen--I simply wanted to focus on my grades, get leaner, stronger and healthier.

Well, nothing happened as planned. During my second semester in college(this past spring) while play wrestling with one of my buddies on the team, I managed to tear the ACL in my left knee. That sucked. I had knee surgery and had the ACL reconstructed with a patella tendon alograft off of a cadaver on March 19th of this year. Five months later, some time around mid-august, with a ton of hard-work, my knee was finally feeling healthy. Great! Or so I thought. For as my knee was getting healthy, I started feeling a sharp pain in my right glute whenever I went to stretch the hamstring on that leg. I thought maybe it was just really tight so I began putting an effort in stretching it every day. However, that sharp pain when stretching kept persisting--the 'tightness' would not go away. So I scheduled an appointment with my doc. However, just 2 days prior to my appointment, while jumping rope to warm-up in order to stretch some more, I felt a little crackle in my upper right glute/low back, and from that point on I began feeling severe and constant pain at 8 on a 10 scale focused in my right glute. All I could was lay flat on my stomach, laptop in hand and research everything that caused gluteal pain. Luckily I had an appointment with my doc in just two days. He wasn't sure what it was, so he referred me to his colleague, a Sports MD Specialist. The Sports MD guy believed it was a herniated disc but wasn't sure, so he gave me a bunch of drugs for the pain and told me to see him in a week. Within that week the pain had progressed down my leg into the outside of my right calve and down the outside of my right foot. He had me get an MRI and referred me to an Orthopedic Surgeon and PT. The Orthopedic Surgeon took a look at the MRI and saw that a fragment of the L5-S1 disc was lodged in my spine and recommended that I have the surgery to get it removed as it was also impinging on a nerve. Just having gotten done dealing with surgery and recovery period of a torn ACL, I was really against the surgery. I thought to myself, "I'm 19 years old for christ sake, I'm going to heal." However, he insisted that it was really open and shut. Either I'd have to wait 3-6 months for my body to recognize that the disc was not supposed to be there and for it to break it down, or I could have the surgery to get it removed. He also mentioned that my body may never break it down.

5 weeks later, after several sessions with a PT and a 7 day course of Prednisone for it's anti-inflammation affect, I feel much better and am able walk, and even jog a little bit, though awkwardly. I still have weakness in my right calve, I have no achilles tendon reflex, and hamstring stretches still send a sharp pain up my glute. My biggest issue though is sitting down. I I could live with everything else, but the ability to sit down a not be in pain is just something I cannot live without. I cannot sit down for longer than 30 seconds without feeling pain in my upper right glute. It's completely debilitating. Being a pre-med major, I have quite a number of difficult classes. It's difficult enough taking notes in lectures when I'm 100%, but not being able to sit down just makes it impossible for me to learn anything. And my grades have suffered. I'm really just overwhelmed--I feel like all my dreams are going down the toilet. That I'm never going to be able to wrestle again, that my grades will never be good enough for Med School, heck even my social life is non-existent as some days all I am able to do is just lay down.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. For those of you who have read this far, I really thank you! Any advice you can offer would be a real relief. Should I go ahead and get the surgery ASAP? Or should I wait it out, continue the PT and hope that the disc fragment dissolves itself? My fear is getting the surgery only for the issue not to be resolved--that there's something else causing the Sciatica. Or worse, surgery causing even more complications. I've read so many topics of people with failed surgeries and multiple surgeries. Thanks again in advance!


  • Welcome to spine-health,no one on this forum can advise you weather or not to have surgery,you should listen to your doctor and surgeon....The thing you should be worried about is its impinging on a nerve.
  • SteveA, I would suggest you get multiple medical opinions to help you decide and in my opinion, it would be wise to go to a large teaching hospital (Johns Hopkins in MD, for example) and see a neurosurgeon that specializes. I find sitting in cold water with some ice cubes (only few mins at a time) helps reduce the inflammation along with anti-inflam meds and stretching. Good luck.
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  • This is my first time ever doing this type of thing. I never use the internet but I am so desperate for releaf that i will do anything. In July, I had a cat scan that showed two bulged discs.I took two weeks off work and rested my back, after that it was sore and i babied it for the rest of the summer. I work at a job where we sit all day long. For the next few months after that I was very stiff at work and the commute was uncomfortable. ON NOv. 1st I woke at 4am with excruciating pain in my left leg. I could not put any weight on it and it felt like my whole leg from my butt to my toes was in a 'charlie horse', it took me about 3 hrs to walk it off and everyday since i've been doing the same thing, i get 3 hrs sleep and then walk off the pain and never sit down, I dread going to bed at night because i know i have to deal with it when i wake up. The doctors put me on a med called Tegretol with is for epileptics supposedly for nerve pain, i think its useless, but i can't get an MRI until late Dec. Last Thursday I sneezed and fell, since then i can't really stand up straight, but I've been in this chair for 10 mins and my ass hasn't gone into a spasm. So my symptoms have changed. I no longer can lay on my stomach on the floor or on my back, i need to stand and be bent over something at all times. if i walk the pain from my calve to my foot is terrible but still better because my butt isn't involved. I now have swollen feet and calves from standing all the time and I don't know if its from being upright or if it the tylenol 3 with codeine that they put me on. All I know is that for the first time in a month I got 5 hrs sleep in a row and I can sit in this chair. I'm just wondering if anyone else has had these symtoms where you wake up with your leg in total spasm, cause i have very little pain in my lower baCK, but my leg is killing me.
  • Hey Steve - hang in there. I know it's tough. I used to be really active (running, lifting, rowing, etc.) and messed up my L4-L5 bad last year doing a deadlift. I did about 6 months of conservative treatment (epidural injections, meds, physical therapy), then got a microdiscectomy. Initial results were great, but then I got scar tissue that's caused problems worse than before surgery. Looking back, I wish I'd gotten second, third, etc. opinions before getting the surgery. You might also want to consider checking out a neurosurgeon, too, besides the orthopedic guys.
  • hey man i know exactly how you feel. i have the same disc herniation at my L5-S1 and some bulging at L4-L5. oh and btw im only 16.....i played football got awards for it and all and this year i had to sit out for the whole season and watch my team from the sidelines. i was so active before i would have football practice every nigth and then work out right aftr. now i am a potatoe and hate it. im going in for surgery in 2-3 weeks since i am getting signifcant nerve damage. the good thing about it is that my doc said that i would be able to play football next season if i have a good recovery which is all that i could wish for (it was the first thing i asked him lol).
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  • Thanks for all the replies guys, they really help.

    And Ajay, wow--16, I thought I was the only teen with Sciatica. What is the surgery you're getting? A discectomy? And have you tried any other treatments besides the surgery? I'm guessing none did the trick for you.
  • SteveA said:
    Thanks for all the replies guys, they really help.

    And Ajay, wow--16, I thought I was the only teen with Sciatica. What is the surgery you're getting? A discectomy? And have you tried any other treatments besides the surgery? I'm guessing none did the trick for you.
    yeah tell me about i gotta walk with a cane and use a backrest which at least allows me to sit for a max of 20min lol. yeah my surgery is a discectomy which im getting on the 11th so your not alone among the younglings lol. ive been to physio since its been going on and such and nothing helps only thing that did was percocet which brought me some relif at least. best of luck to you
  • hey wutsup Steve A i know exactly how u feel since i too wrestled and have some herniated disc. To make a long story short it was 2 years ago during my highschool wrestling season i hurt my back in practice really badly i took a few weeks off due to the pain but came back to practice and started wrestling again because i really loved the sport and thought that i would just have to man up and tough it out because like they say no pain no gain. Well i did try to tough it out the whole season even though I was in constant pain, i could barely walk around without limping or spasming, and it showed in my wrestling because i was only wrestling at about 70% of my complete strength and capabilitys. I felt that although i was excrutiating pain that it would have to wait becuase wrestling was more important than that. WRONG. I have been diagnosed with l4,l5,s1 herniated discs, and its been 2 years now im 19 and although im about at about 90% of my complete stregth i still have back pain every now and then for no reason at all, i stretch, keep good posture and do everything possible in order not put any stress on my lower back. SO I SAY DO NOT WRESTLE OR ENGAGE IN ANYTHING THAT WILL PUT YOUR BACK INTO ANY RISK OF DANGER UNTIL YOUR COMPLETLY HEALED. As for the surgery part although i have not gotten surgery becuase of doctors advice i have spoken with neuro surgens and ortho doctors who have said that surgery at such a young age might not help your back at all and if anything might mess up your back worse, and the chance of it helping you at all is like a 50/50 chance and every ten years or so you will have to get another surgery performed on your back due to the other disc weakening which will thus complicate your life longativity in the future. I belive if your neurosurgen belives that surgery is the best option and if the postives out wiegh the risk than go for it. Also it wouldnt hurt to get another neurosurgens opinion on your back. any other questions that you or anyone else might have feel free to contact me
  • I have a herniated disc at the exact same location. I went almost six months before they found out what was wrong and got it fixed. During those six months I got to a point where I could no longer sit up and had to have help standing up. I started receiving epidural steroidal shots in my back and now feel great! You should ask you're surgeon about those. They are way less invasive and really helped me, so they might help you as well.
  • Thanks for the advice alneumil, but this thread is quite old :). It's been three months since I've updated this, and just for anyone who is wondering, I've improved drastically in those three months.

    Oh and I refuse to have any more epidurals. All they do is treat the inflammation--a symptom, and not the problem. I'm at the point where an epidural will barely help me. I'm 19 years old so I don't plan to get a shot in my back every year for the rest of my life.
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