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L5/S1 Acute Herniation (long winded intro...sorry)

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,321
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
After almost a month of searching for a good forum discussing spine issues, I FINALLY found this one (thank goodness!!)

About me:
I am a 35-year old active male; avid personal fitness fanatic that trains almost daily--weight training, running, swimming, spinning, basketball, racquetball, beach volleyball (summer) amongst other things.

Anyway, about six weeks ago hurt my back running a couple of miles on a treadmill. Kept working out as in the past my back would eventually loosen up, but this turned different--I began to have shooting pain from the lower back down the left side of my butt/upper leg (never below my thigh). Of course I probably made it worse as I never had anything like this.

Initially went to a massage therapist--nothing, PT--nothing, and Chiro-nothing.

Finally went to a spine specialist and got an MRI indicating herniated disk L5/S1 and began with a week of oral prednisone--nothing. Subsequently had three epidurals in a short period of time. Started with Gabapentin and am on to Lyrica. Been going to PT for four weeks and usually just feel worse the next day. Continue with PT though.

Hurts ridiculously (tears well up and I am 6'4 220lbs) when I first get out of bed in the morning. Getting in and out of cars is pure torture. Sitting is tolerable, but getting up afterwards is not. I eat, surf the net, watch tv, etc. standing up.

The next step according to my orthopaedic doc is meeting with a spine surgeon (out of Rush here in Chicago) and possible discectomy. I have read about discectomy, microdiscectomy, edoscopic discectomy, laminectomy, fusions, Axialif, etc. I am at a loss in terms of what is the best option as I want to avoid surgery at all costs and be as active as before. But surgery seems so hit or miss or hit and then need it again!?!

And the biggest issue now is...
I start a new job Monday (thus the epidurals being close together) where I will be traveling a bunch and very anxious about having to sit for any period of time.

Thanks for reading this long post, but any advice will help and I will continue to ask questions.


  • Usually, there is a course of conservative treatments you want to try before going into an operating room.
    You've done some, have you tried traction?
    There are 3 or 4 different traction machines out there right now. They might offer some relief.

    Sometimes these things subside in time.
    Sometimes there are consequences to waiting.

    When they don't then you want to have as minimally invasive surgery while achieveing maximum benefit.

    Like anything else, there are all kinds of surgeons.
    Good, bad, so-so, conservative, cut-happy, old-school, latest technique users, etc etc

    It's really good you are researching the different types of surgeries.

    If I may, I'd like to add that you should do a "discogram" before any surgery. This test will help visualize the condition of the disc.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • I'm sorry to hear. I have the same pain and I thought I was pretty fit also. I hope you can get some pain relief. I've gone through 14 months off work hoping it will heal on it's own. It's hard to give an answer as I feel decompression may've helped me get back to the work world but no Dr would operate on me. I'm feeling half the pain I did when it started and that's still alot being 5-6 on the pain scale maybe a 3,4 on a good day. Get a 2nd opinion or at least the discogram as Paul mentioned above. I wish you alll the best. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
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  • 36 male 6'3 215 Well i would realy pay atentionm to any foot drop or problenms going to the rest room as these are signs things are getting worse. Any numbness go to er. I myself compressed spinal cord and damaged nerve to left legg had severe foot drop no rest room problems thank goodness. Ive heard but not tryed and inversion table for relief ands decompression of disk. I would use Ice alot on your lower back sweeling can cause alot of pain and pinch nerves. Hope ya feel better.

    Microdiectomy l5 s1 november 08
  • I know how you feel because I was in your shoes about four weeks ago.

    I did have microdiscectomy. Recovery could be 2-4 weeks. I had to redo the surgery because of a sneezing fit. My 2nd surgery is a success so far. I can sit, eat (lost a lot of weight due to pain), and actually think about something besides pain.

    I had a herniated disc in the same spot as you. Your doctor will prob. want to take baby-steps, so I doubt he/she will want to ALIF (fusion) right away.

    Check out microdiscectomy. It has 90-95% success rate

    Goood luck!
  • Thanks for getting back to me everyone, I really appreciate it!!

    I agree with you Paul and want to take the conservative route and do NOT want surgery. I'm super anxious about starting the new job as it will require sitting whether in training or traveling by plane or car. What to do??

    I would definitely go minimally invasive if possible if surgery is the only option. However, with surgery it seems like everyone needs to go back in at some point and sometimes not to far out in the future.

    I just want to get back to my activity level, be able to sit, and focus on my new job. Can the disk revert back into its normal position? I have heard mixed things on this. What do you all think?

    Thanks everyone!
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  • Have you tried an inversion table? I bought one in 2001 when I first started having problems with my lower back. I think it is what saved me from surgery until this year. I had a failed Microdiscectomy on L5-S1 in Jan and a redo done the first of March. I am doing great after the second surgery. The recovery time is usually about 4 weeks. I hope you get some relief soon. Good Luck.
  • Welcome to the board. I am sorry for the reason you found us.

    I'm afraid your new job is fraught with problems for someone with a recently herniated disc. Sitting is one of the worst things you can do, short of having to stand for hours on end.

    Also all your fitness activities are not conducive to allowing your disc to heal. However, if you had surgery, the limitations would be the same while you are in the process of healing.

    Think of the disc as a water balloon that is bulging out on one side. The more pressure you expose the balloon to, the greater the chances that the bulge will give way and the water will come gushing out. This is a simplistic example, but it lets you know that things can get worse without proper caution and care.

    The fact that you have pain radiating down your leg indicates that a nerve is being displaced by the bulge of the disc. This causes some nerve compression which results in the symptoms you feel in your buttock and leg.

    The chances are minimal, but if you should develop any bowel or bladder problems or "foot drop," you should seek medical attention immediately. The location of your bulging disc is particularly susceptible to developing "cauda equina syndrome," and the damage to the nerve can become permanent in short order. So call your doctor ASAP or go to an ER if you cannot get a hold of your doctor IF you develop any of those symptoms.

    It is possible for the disc to heal on its own. My husband was an avid runner. He ruptured a lower lumbar disc many years ago and was flat on his back for a few days. Gradually he was able to resume some activity, go to PT and start going back to the office. At the beginning I carried his briefcase and drove him to work every day. He had trouble sitting, so he would stand to take phone calls, meetings, etc. and he would stretch out on the floor to let his discs unload whenever he could spare a few private minutes! I'm sure his co workers found it a bit odd, but...it allowed him to work and to get better. I think it took about 6 months for him to start feeling reasonably OK. He walked and did his "back exercises" faithfully (which he still does every single day without exception). I think it was about 9 months or so when he started back to a slow jog...and that was 15 years ago. He still runs and he hasn't had other problems.

    My husband is always aware of his back limitations. He is careful about using good body mechanics, heads for a straight-back chair rather than the over-stuffed furniture, paces himself when he has to do something that will bother his back like raking or yard work...then he comes into the house and stretches flat out on the floor and gives his discs a chance to decompress.

    You might want to consider going to a physiologist. This is a doctor that specializes in rehabilitation. He or she can is trained to get a patient back on his feet using all the treatments an ortho or neuro surgeon would recommend, short of surgery. Since your exercise is so important to you, this might be a good place to start.

    I don't know what to say about your new job. Riding in cars and planes is very hard on someone with a bulging disc. The position of sitting is awful, particularly when you are tall...and the vibration can be damaging, too. You really need to be able to take some time off to give the disc a chance to heal, but I realize that is not a possibility, right?

    Sorry this is so long -- but I thought you might be interested in some of the anecdotal story of a fellow spiney.

    Good luck.

    xx Gwennie
  • for the continued responses!

    Sandy- I have tried an inverson table and have heard mixed reviews on it. I know you can a decent one for around 150, which I have contemplated. I guess anything that could potentially help is a good thing.

    Gwennie- I appreciate all the information and could always use more. If the pain gets more intense or I lose any function I will go immediately to the ER!! I have no issues going to the doctor. You stated all the concerns I have about my new job. If it was my old one I could close my door and stretch or stand all day. This new one involves training and travel which concerns me, but it is a job I have been trying to get for a while now...bad timing isn't it?!?

    I really just need it to be manageable at this point with the new job and all. Working out or being active will hopefully come in time. My concern with surgery is the fact that no one seems 100% after and generally need additional surgeries. I just cannot bear not being 100% after a surgery, especially for my age, and then possibly needing to go under again in the near future. This really stinks!!
  • hi chicago-eman, i feel your concerns...i had them too...however for me i knew i couldn't continue in the amount of pain i was in so i knew surgery was my only option (none of the conservative treatments worked & 2 drs recommended it). also, since i have been dealing with this for so long i didn't want to put it off & cause further damage for waiting. (a longer version of my story is here)

    be aware too, that those who have been healed don't typically go online to talk about how great their life is now...they're too busy living their life. :d

    btw, i'm 33yrs old and before my injury i was a gym rat too (5+ days/week) and had just started to increase my outdoor running distance.
  • Paperwife- thanks for taking the time to post over here and I had a chance to read your story. I too am sorry about your back and what you are going through, I know it is tough. lulu recommended in your thread Lyrica, which I just began to take. So, I can let you know how it works.

    I wish that more people stuck around to share their positive results as the internet seems filled with only negative things regarding back problems. I simply want to be as active as I was a month ago and I am sure you do too!! How do athletes do it?

    I would love to keep in touch with you as microdiscestomy may be te route that I go...but again trying to avoid similar to how you tried for a while!
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