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Update: 6 months with a HUGE disc herniation... should I still be thinking surgery?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,208
Hi everyone,
I have been absent from the boards since my first post, but I do lurk/read your stories and hope you are all doing well with your recovery and pain managment.

Here is an update on my story, hope it's not too long winded...
It has beenn about 6 months + since my original injury.
Originally had what I think was a disc bulge at L5-S1 w/horrible sciatica in my right leg for two months- at that time I was still working and was seeing a chiro/acupuncturists with minimal improvement.

Then (thanks to a cough and chiropractic treatment) it completly BLEW OUT and I was unable to move/stand/walk/sit without exrutiating pain in my back and right leg. I was in a total panic since I was without insurance and unable to work. I quickly got into see a GP and requested an MRI (Discount center- $400 o.o.p) which showed an absolutley HUGE disc extrusion at S1-L5 (2.7 x 1.4 x 1.0 cm!) impinging on the S1 nerve root, and also a small bulge at L5-6 with annular fissure.

Then saw two nuero-surgeons (one at the county hospital) who both recommended a microD. One said it would NOT resolve without surgery and the other was more optimistic- saying anything could happen - even huge extrusions have been known to resolve without surgery and resorb into the body over time. I was not too comfortable with the NS at the county hospital who would be the one doing the surgery, and I seemed to be gradually improving day by day (only with walking, walking, walking and taking it easy during a flare up), so I decided to postpone surgery (twice!).

Amazingly, after recovering from the second "blow out" the sciatic/back pain improved each week- much less pain than when it was a "bulge". Eventually I was taking no pain meds, just fish oil and glucosamin. The last month I also began egosque exersizes and posture therapy with some improvement.

I'm at the 6 month point and progress seems to have leveled off a bit.
My activities are still limited but pain is manageable- If I overdo it, sciatic pain ranges from 1-3. I still have persistent numbness in my small toes/right side of my foot and burning in the ankle and calf if I sit/stand too long. No muscle weakness or foot drop, bowel symptoms, etc.

Lately, I have been second-guessing my decision to forego surgery. I know the window of opportunity is 3-6 months and I am already past that point, but I am worried that the nerve numbness/symptoms will be permanent and that huge extrusion might DO something to me again down the road-
The thought of ending up where I was 4 months ago is horrifying!!!
And I do have one new symptom that worries me- my right leg has "patches" of numbness/tingling now.

Has anyone out there recovered from a large lumbar disc "extrusion" without surgery? with what treatment?

Would surgery even be advisable at this point?

My last MRI was 4 months ago, would it be ness to get one to see what has changed?

I appreciate any advise or stories you can share. Thanks much!


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Comments

  • I know these are a lot of difficult questions- At the end of each month I seem to go through this re-evaluation and second guessing things all over again. It's been a huge emotional strain to go through this sciatica thing as I am sure many of you know.

    I am doing fairly well, but probably only 65-75% back to pre-injury status.
    Beyond getting out of pain, I do hope one day I can get back to doing the things I love- mountain hiking, biking, backpack travel, moving ahead in teaching career, etc. It's so devastating to think those things might be over, as I'm only 40. It has been hard on my son too as I can't do the things we used to do together.

    If I had had insurance, I would have had the operation months ago. The NS at the county hospital wanted to cut out a signifigant portion of the disc (he said 1/3) as well as the extrusion. I was weary of this since the other doctor i consulted (at a well respected spine pogram) said he would preserve as much of the disc as possible and only remove the extrusion. (Of course I didn't have the $50.000!!!)

    One question-
    [However, increasingly the newer literature is saying that after six months, there are far fewer chances for recovery.] Did you mean with surgery or without surgery? Is the 6 month condition more likely to be where you will remain?

    Best,
    Profess
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