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What happens if you DON'T have surgery???

Lulubel2LLulubel2 Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:38 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

My question is: what would happen if you didn't have surgery on herniated discs? My DX is...

"Disc space narrowning, disc desiccation and mild broad based disc protrusion at L1 and L2.

Disc space narrowing, disc desiccation and midline disc herniation at L4 and L5 exerting mass effect on the ventral thecal sac as well as exiting bilateral nerve roots.

Disc space narrowning, disc desiccation and midline disc herniation at L5 and S1 exerting mass effect on the ventral thecal sac as well as exiting bilateral nerve roots."

To me, I basically have, a couple buldging discs and a couple herniated discs pinching the siatic nerves going down both legs.

I have severe pain going down both legs, severe butt cheek pain, creepy crawlies. I basically feel like I have a hot wire being pulled from my lower back to my feet. In any qiven day I can have pain on one side or both sides at the same time. The pain can move from side to side depending on what I try to do. Sitting, standing or laying for any long period of time is out of the question. Oh yeah, the back spasms are unbelievable and can last for days. I can do stuff but get an escalation of pain with any type of activity. I don't sleep, unless I knock myself out, for more than a couple hours at a time.

The reason I'm looking for long term answers is I am not insured anymore since my divorce a few years ago. I am not eligible for Medicaid since I don't have minor children. I have been denied SS and Medicare because I don't have enough work credits and the State of Florida's supposedly low cost insurance for a 50 year old is $500 a month. And any major medical insurance doesn't cover pre-existing conditions for at least one year. So basically I am SOL.

From what I have read I am looking at long term nerve damage. A chance of loss of bowels and bladder control and pain. I've only had this severe problem since April and I'm about to lose my mind trying to find answers.

I have been referred to a Neurosurgeon and Pain Management, but since I don't work, I can't afford it. I do have an Internist that is trying to work with me with pain management. I'm on a low dose of Vicodin and Robaxin and have an appointment this afternoon to raise the dosage or go to something stronger.

But long term, what could I be looking at. Do herniated discs ever heal themselves and go away? Or am I really doomed to this forever?

Thanks for giving me this forum to vent and try to find some more answers....



  • Hi Lulubel!

    If President Obama's Healthcare Plan passes through the second ?House, then you'll be able to see the neurosurgeon (I'm from the UK)! Herniated discs can repair themselves; there's an article about it on this site (see below).

    Surgery is a big step and I don't think your neurosurgeon would suggest this as your first step. They take more conservative approaches to lower back pain and many of these work really well. I'd give them a chance before having surgery because once you've had it, there's no going back (no pun intended!).

    So, no you're not condemned to a lifetime of pain, but do give your back a chance to heal ie rest whilst waiting to see the neurosurgeon IF President Obama's Bill passes. If you think of the treatment like a ladder: the first step is to treat with medication and physio; the next step is to use non-invasive techniques like injections. You're on step one - vicodin for pain and robaxin for your muscle spasms. In your position as an extra step while waiting, I'd ask the PM for stronger medication to reduce the pain and muscle spasms.

    Hope that helps!

    Bye, Val

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  • Hey! Thanks for your quick responses! I really appreciate it.

    Val..I have been watching Obamas health reform, but from what I see, it will not be a "universal health care" such as in the UK and Canada, but available health insurance at a lower premium than what is being charged now, which is completely out of control. I could be wrong though. It just passed a major vote and is moving along.

    Julie..I checked out that site and did not even consider teaching hospitals. I live in NE Florida just outside of Jacksonville. There are major teaching hospitals here. Shands University and Shands Gainesville. I will ask my Internist this afternoon and see what he says even though he is affliated with St. Vincents which is a isn't a teaching hospital. I did try to apply for a Shands card a few months ago and they determine your eligibilty by doing a financial on "everyone" in your household. I live with my BF and he pays the bills and I would be denied due to his income because you can only make less than $500 a week. He's works for a CPA. While he makes decent money, not enough to pay outright for major treatment.

    Anyway Thanks again you two and to anyone who might respond too.

  • Out of interest, which do you hope will happen - that his Bill will pass the last stage or not? As I understood it, he intends to provide healthcare for 96% of the public, but it won't be funding abortions. I thought it was going to be similar to ours, where those who earn, will have it taken out of their wages at source, which will therefore pay for anyone who can't work or can't afford healthcare.

    That's really beside the point though. I hope you find some way out of this mess. Actually our waiting lists (NHS) are currently 26 weeks, so I'm pretty much in the same position as you are. If you go privately over here, you could be seen within the week. However simple spinal injections are massively expensive, so it's on to the 26-week waiting list for anyone in our area, including me!

    Bye, Val
  • Discs can heal but it is a long, slow process. You might want to read up on the subject:


    Here are some suggested exercises you can try, gently!


    I will write more later on the question of nerve damage. Right now I am off to get a nerve block, but I will check in later.

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  • Hope everyone is having a happy Wednesday morning!

    I went to the doc on Monday and he said in his opionion I am a strong candidate for surgery. My pain and nerve pain was predominatly on the right side in the beginning but for the last 4 months it is on to both sides. I have a hard time walking, sitting or laying down for any length of time. I can't work, pick up my granddaughter, walk my dogs or do any regular daily activities without a huge increase in pain. I even have a hard time sitting on the potty. And my butt crack is soooo sore today. :(

    From what I have been reading online, I really hoped this would be something that would heal on it's own without intervention. But I have not really gotten any better in 8 months now and am having a hard time managing my pain and the constant burning in my lower back and legs.

    He said the discs are completely herniated and the disc material is coming out and pinching/pressing on the ventral nerve sac. I understand that is the sac the nerves are in once they come out of your spinal column. He also brought up, again, the bowel and bladder loss as a possibility. Yuck! According to my Xrays, that I never got the results of, I also have bone spurs in the area of the hernitations and adult scoliosis and a small spina bifida. I think is it closed? I really didn't understand everything but my spinal cord is not exposed and causing all the problems spina bifida causes. Thank you God! Anyway, he strongly told me not to put off dealing with my back.

    Since insurance is a problem,and I have been denied Medicaid, Medicare and SSI, he recommended that I call the Charitable department at St. Vincent's and start the process of trying to get surgery through that. He is sending a letter stating my problems and that I need to see a Neurosurgeon instead of an Orthopedic surgeon. I also am assuming that I will be used as training for interns, etc. That is okay, I guess, as long as an unexperienced doctor is not the one doing the actual surgery.

    He also upped my pain meds and added Neurontin. Anyone have any experience with it? He said it would probably make me light headed and dizzy. More fun! I haven't took yet since I have been having problems with nausea yesterday and today and didn't want to add to it. What about Robaxin?? He told me to take 2 tablets 4 times a day and I have thrown up both times I've taken that dosage. I'm not taking the pain meds at the same time. That's just way too much.

    I also would like to ask if anyone has actual skin numbness in their lower back? If I sit for too long, my actual lower back and butt cheeks feel as if I actually had a shot of novocaine there. I still have the pain but it feels like it does if you get novocaine when you get your tooth filled. It only lasts 10 minutes or so, but it weird feeling. Just a big hunk of numb butt cheeks.

    Again, thanks for all your help. It's great to be able to chat with other people who understand and have been through the same thing.


    Val...I will get back to you too about the Obama Health Reform. It passed the House but I have heard the Senate won't approve it. I DO feel like ALL people should be able to get health care whether it's a NHS or lower premiums on policies purchased individually or through their job. Please let me know how your nerve blocks turned out and whether they worked for you.......L~

    Also I have been doing gentle stretching, short walks, and have used an inversion board similar to VaxD but the inversion board pulls too much on my legs and increases the nerve pain.
  • I will take this opportunity to tell you my opinion. I do not want anything to do with a government run healthcare system. Nothing else that they take control of has ever worked. I would not want to be stuck with anything like the NHS from what I have heard about that system. Right now we have very good choices for healthcare and can receive treatment in a timely manner. I do agree that our system needs an overhaul but If a public healthcare option becomes available we will all be on it. The employers will stop offering private insurance as a benefit. It is out of control and unaffordable for many so something does need to be done about it but I don't think that it needs to be handed over to the government.
  • I have had great results with a teaching hospital. Some procedures are not based on your income but are still very affordable. It may mean having tons of interns watching all check ups and procedures which is a little weird but you can often get an excellent quality of care. I have great health insurance but will still op to have some things done at my local medical university. The quality of care that you receive is well worth having 10-20 people look on as you are examined. Good luck and keep us posted.
  • Hi there,

    Thankfully you see that Obama's plan isn't going to work like Canada (which I know canadians that complain about it) or UK. It's exactly what you said and besides, you don't have time to wait to see what comes of that.

    I think your doctor is sending you down the right path. You do sound like the surgery is needed (but I'm no doctor). And you hopefully can work out some sort of charitable payment plan and reduced fee. I also think the idea of looking into a training hospital might be a good option and you are helping future patients by allowing these student to learn by watching.

    Good luck.
  • I was really scared to have surgery on my spine, so I drug out having it. By the time I did have it (4 yrs after my diagnosis), I had incontinence, skin numbness, I couldn't move my 4 small toes on my left foot, and I could actually feel tension in my spinal cord when I stretched forward. I've since had a 2nd surgery, and I believe my damage is permanent. I have areas on the back of my calf that are totally numb when I shave my legs, and I have BEYOND painful and irritating neuropathy. You need to find the balance between conservative treatment first, but not waiting too long and damaging the nerve fibers. Your discs take a long time to heal, but at some point they will dry up enough and not regenerate. Bone rubbing on bone will create spurs that will trap nerves also....it's a bad cycle.

    I really hope you can get the help you need without horrible debt. I think that's an area where we need a lot of work! Those that are in the financial middle, and don't qualify for anything, or in my case.... I could really stand to work part-time instead of full time to not suffer so badly, but can't afford it. There's no program to help supplement those that aren't completely disabled, but b/c of their "disability" they can't work full time either. My mom recently got SSI. She has mental and physical disabilities (but not enough work credit), and she gets a whopping $400/mo. That's it! No way to support herself at all...she can't pay rent, pay a car payment, or barely get groceries. So, I had to keep working with my issues to support her! So sad!!
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