Just posting this in [faint] hope that someone with the same strong instincts and common sense as me comes across this and it helps them. Disclaimers etc.: just my story.
I had L5-S1 (lower back, down the outer thigh, and outer edge of the foot, but also big toe). Never got an MRI - haha couldn't possibly stay still for 5min b/c of pain, never mind 1/2hr, or even getting out of the house and into the car. Never got any sleep - just passed out for a couple hours a couple times a night, when exhaustion got worse than pain. Couldn't lie/sit/stand - could only stay on my knees, with the stomach on a chair, and chest/elbows on a second chair; that way I could regulate weight/curvature. Couldn't feed or wash myself, crawling to the bathroom was torture and the bathroom itself - well, you know how it is; for a few months literally couldn't wipe myself. So, you get the picture, it was BAD.
What I did:
1. Stayed still.
Won't argue with anyone about surgery/hormones/meds, suffice it to say I wasn't going down that road. Everyone pushed me, but I had become like an animal, I had become overwhelmed by primal instinct, and the instinct told me to stay still - and that's what I did, for about a year ("still" being a relative term, since I was forced to fidget all the time). Now I know I was lucky that I COULD stay at home and had my elderly mother to feed and wash me - I know most can't afford that, but I too abandoned my career, got into debt - I just realized that nothing mattered anymore, only the elementary physical survival. And of course the membranes that hold the disk are thin and fed through osmosis, not circulation, so it's a lengthy process, and the body can't possibly begin to heal w/o maximum immobilization. But it IS designed to heal itself, if you can only give it a chance.
2. Epsom salt.
There is a medical reason for how this works, I won't bore you with theory. In practice: in the morning, BEFORE breakfast, I dissolved 1tbsp of ordinary cheap epsom salt in hottish-warm water, drank it (yes, yuck), placed a small electric heat blanket thingie set to comfortably-warm on my right side covering the area from lower ribs to the waist (targets bile duct), and lay on the right side for 30min.
3-5 days later, I'd have a significant improvement in pain. Over the next 3 weeks, it would get progressively worse again, but not down to the same level as before. Then I'd repeat, get another boost, then it'd slide back. I did maybe 5-6 cycles. Timing was mostly instinctual.
It's 1.5yrs since my initial collapse, and I'm completely pain-free, slowly building muscles back, a new lease on life. Of course conditions are different, but I think/hope it can help any disk-related problem.
Some other things I did along the way:
- My mother gave me a soft massage regularly, b/c my circulation had all but come to a stop and I was getting noticeable muscle loss in the calf.
- Took glucosamine/chondroitin/msm religiously.
- Got some acupuncture, but wouldn't recommend to anyone b/c ~90% of acupuncturists in US, esp. those trained in the US, have no idea what they are doing. Where it did help a ton was the late-night pulsing/throbbing in the foot that drives you insane - 1-2 needles kinda "pinned" the pain, like breaking a short-circuit, almost immediately. Again, just my great fortune to have it available.
- While the pain was unbearable, I did do ibu, 600-800mg at ~2am, ALWAYS with a bowl of instant oatmeal, b/c it'll kill your stomach sooner than the pain. I took barely enough to take the edge off, not for comfort, only for minimal survival. That said, prolonged nerve pain can lead to inflammation and feed on itself, so it SHOULD be cut down. But I skipped on it whenever I could bear it.
- The healthy spine position is lying on the back. I could lie on one side a little, and I started trying to lie a tiny bit closer to the "on the back" position, just a short time every day, supporting w/ pillows & blankets. I put a cheap folding Ikea chair bed next to a sofa, b/c the Ikea bed was an inch lower than the sofa, so my hips/butt would be lower than my torso, mimicking the natural spine curve (my back was straight as a board at the time, and the spine bones all stuck out b/c my back muscles had atrophied). The two-level bed-sofa also helped w/ pain a lot. Over months, I slowly nudged my body to lie on the back, i.e. slowly nudged the disk into position. Eventually, I could lie just on the Ikea bed on my back.
- Read books I found it often distracted me from pain. I read 'Sophie's World' - it really complemented my new-found capacity for compassion and understanding of what life is about and what it means to be human. O:)
Have faith in your body, even when it feels like it has betrayed you. While I was sick, there was definitely no light in my tunnel, I had no reason to think things would ever change. But it came, and even if it never did - without the pain I would have never learned the truth about life. I hope there will be at least one person whom this will help, even if a little!