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27 Male - 7 Months "mild" L5/S1 Herniation

Hi All

Ive read so many stories now about people and their pain. And I now am able to empathise.

I am not looking for a fix, just peoples views. I herniated my L5/S1 in Dec 2011, its now July and my pain remains due to me not taking the required time to rest and recover (i continued to work on and off). The herniation I believe was caused due to years of bad posture, working a desk job (past 9 years) and possibly some bad form in the gym. I had a bad habit of standing in the bathroom mirror for hours also cutting my hair and grooming! Sounds silly, but doing this for sure took its toll
on my L5/S1 area.

Anyhow. I am 27 years of age, male, current weight is 74kg. Very low body fat. After extensive research I believe I have anterior pelvic tilt, tight hams and weak abs. I now do core exercises and stretches which really help out.

When my disc first went, i was in agony. Could not walk at all, saw a Chiro (in the UK (I was on vacation at the time)) whom adised to rest for a few days and then keep active. I did this and found improvements day by day. After 3 weeks of rest I returned to work (desk job in saudi arabia). After a week of work I was off again due to further pain.

This leads me to where I am now. I find it difficult/uncomfortable to work as sitting puts a lot of pressure on my L5/S1. Its
difficult to stand for long periods without discomfort unless i keep my core firm. My main concern is my disc doesnt seem to be recovering while I am at work. I can work for a few days, then all weekend I spend my time recovering for the next weeks work. Ive told work I cannot continue like this and am off again resting (pain will deminish fully while off).

IVe seen 4 different doctors. Had an MRI and many X rays. All doctors say my herniation is mild. It will recover with time. But I am not so sure. I am extremely cautious but still in mild pain (whilst doing this on and off work routine). If I take time off the pain pretty much vanishes but I still am on edge it will return naturally, my brain is trained now to be cautious and all sports and weight training i stopped. For sure if I spent a day sitting down on and off pain would return. I can honestly say I do everything in my power to avoid symptoms coming back while off work.

Ive done everything except for surgery. Surgery for me I will not have until i have tried extended rest with core muscle balancing. Call me foolish, but I am not willing to take the risks at this stage (pain IMO isnt bad enough).

Anyhow. I am interested to know peoples throughts on my case. Is it known extended rest can help? As said I am willing to take as long as I need off for my disc to somewhat return into poition. If this does happen. Will it always be a weak point, from experience could I ever work a desk job again without the pains I have now?

Im sorry to waffle! I have a habit of going into far too much detail. I feel because at the start of my injury I wa inexperienced, I may have turned a minor herniation into something more severe.

Many thanks!


  • Man, its sounds a lot like my situation. Please keep up with your hopeful progress and I will do the same
  • rushy_23rrushy_23 Posts: 8
    edited 07/06/2012 - 7:31 AM
    I have four more sessions of physio left so will continue with those, I am off work now and plan to remain this way until I feel comfortable with my situation. It may seem extreme but I am also considering if required that I will hand in my notice and take extended time off.

    I think if this solution fails and I do not return to my normal self, then I will look into surgery.

    I had a bad bout of pain on Wed's night, its clearly quite rapidly whilst resting over the last two days. Tomrrow I will return to some light core exercise and stretches, may even attempt some hydrotherapy. Will let you know how I get on.

    LBP is such life changer, I feel your pain Hutson. What seems to work for you? Have you tried a PT or any stretches/core movements?
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    here is what mine looks like from the mri. herniated l1-s1 (?) i think. does this look moderate to you?

    what works for me.
    -i can only sit for like 20min. i have to get up and walk around every 20 min. some pain relief there.
    -laying down with an ice pack on my lower back. pain relief there too.

    i've done about 1 month of therapy so far with very minimal results. yes, i do core exercises and stretching. light swimming and cardio too.

    agreed on the lbp as a life changer. dude, i was a very very active guy up until about 1.5 months ago. totally rocked my world upside down.i almost feel like a handicapped person. i can't do hardly anything without pain.
    i've always been a very health conscious person and took pretty good care of myself....and this is what i get??!!

    anway here are some things i've learned so far:
    1-keep hope. look forward to a better tomorrow. if you lose hope, everything is already lost.
    2-stay positive. negative emotions add stress and will bring you down. its amazing to me that just a positive attitude can go a long way. i know it sounds corny and cliche, but i've found it works.
    3-patience. this stuff takes time....a long time. i'm used to quick results, and this is killing me, but i refer myself to 1 & 2

    do you ever get sudden shots of pain? like everything is feeling ok, then...whamo pain in the back buttocks and down the leg?
    i feel like i am at some sort of breaking point. either things are going to get better or worse. every get that feeling?

    sorry to rant. just thankful i am not the only one going through this...
    please stay in contact, i'd like to see how things pan out for us both.

  • I believe mine looked quite similar, but I am not sure. I will be re-seeing the doctor at some point so will try and capture my MRI to compare.

    Our symptoms and situations sound practically the same. I do get pain in my butt and rear of the leg, I am very careful to avoid further pain so usually this is caused by something I have done, maybe twisted quite badly or leaned over a little too much.

    Are you working with the pain at the moment, or off work/studies? I think a lot of the none surgical methods exist for people whom will recover over time. I think there is a point of damage which people will not recover from without surgerical intervention. I hate to admit this, but based on what I have read and my own experience, this is how it seems to be. I really do hope long term rest helps us both, but odd feels stacked.

    Out of interest what did you do to cause your herniation, and I suspect you have been in pain for a similar amount of time?

    Emotionally I am fine when there is no severe pain, but when it affects my daily routine (like when I am at work) I do get down very quickly. My issue is this may affect my future career, I now have a 7 month old son whom is dependant on me as our only family source of income, however rather than being the responsible one I am just as dependant as him... Very worrying times ahead.
    I have an awesome job at the moment, I may have to give it all up to rest due to the LBP. Will try keep my chin up!
  • To answer your questions.
    -I am trying to work with the pain. Sitting is what is killing me. I have to sit for my job. Yesterday (sunday) i was able to lay on the ground and not sit. Hardly ANY pain. Almost no pain the entire day. Now that I'm back sitting at work today, I'm back in pain again. Ugh!!! No, I have not taken time off. But I am planning on it.

    Some things that no doubt caused my herniation.
    -moving furniture up stairs, by myself (stupid)
    -overhead military presses, and squats in gym
    -sitting for extended periods (1hour +)

    So yes, I've probably caused it myself. But, Ive never had any problems, or back pain before. So what I thought started as just some sore back muscles, turned out to be much worse. Man, I wish I could've found out sooner to avoid this situation.

    Anyway, hope I helped answer your questions...
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  • hi hutson,

    well imo if the sitting at work is causing an issue then i think you need to stop it. i am not expert but any further pressure put on the area isnt going to help recovery. i'm afraid sitting is the worst position for an l5/s1 herniation so you need to cut it out for a while.

    your gym routine will have to be heavily modified also, i no longer do squats, only light weighted lunges for glutes and quads, military press i'd say is a hell no until you are pretty much all clear. but even then i'd avoid.
    really sorry to hear that but at least you understand where you went wrong now.

    i've been following the below program and i have to admit its taken the edge off the pain (however i do have heavy anterior pelvic tilt):

    - https://www.endyourbackpainnow.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/4-essential-strategies-for-the-correction-of-anterior-pelvic-tilt.pdf

    the physio did explain to me my abs/glutes and hams need to be trained to improve my posture, also to take the workload off my lower back muscles and hip flexors. if you do suffer from apt i'd suggest you give them a whirl once your feeling a little less sore. but from experience dont do them while you are sore as it can make it worse. also follow the guide properly and use good form.

    also have a look into mckenzie stretches. i wasnt so sure on them first, but ive been doing them at a very low level to begin with (resting my chin on a pillow only with arms flat infront). it seems to be a good position to rest in from time to time.

    i've been off work a week now and today is the first day i feel positive and only slight pain in my lower back. i even did a small gym session today consisting of reverse flies/dumbbell rows/pullups (the flies and rows i had my torso against the incline bench).

    i know all our situations are different but its something to consider. strengthen your back muscles and take the pressure off that lower back. our discs may never be 100% but corrected posture and balanced core muscles may steer us out of trouble.
  • Hey there. Just wanted to check in and see how things were going for ya. Any improvements? I looked into that link you sent. I'm going to start those exercises into my routine....see if it helps.

    My update:
    The good: Much less tingling in my foot. Hardly any. I can sit for a bit longer. Say 30-40 min, then I have to get up and walk around for relief. I've also gone back to the gym, but only very light cardio stuff.
    The not so good: I have more shooting pain in my foot that before. Its on and off. Not really sure what sets this off.

    Overall, if I was at a 6-7 (out of 10) pain level at the beginning of July, I'd say its down to a 5-6 now. So not much improvement, but at least its something. Its very hard to tell, I have my good and bad days.
  • Hi matey,

    It sounds like your still on the rocky road but good to hear of some progress, are you still pushing yourself to work in pain?

    Its been real difficult for me, Im now totally off work and spend the first 4 weeks mainly taking bed rest with light exercises, amist this routine below I did feel a slight relapse in my disc but it cleared up in a few days:

    - plank (but starting off with my knees on the floor)
    - lunge with knee on a pillow to stretch the hip flexors
    - lying on my back bringing each knee to my chest SLOWLY (i only did this once the disc pain diminished)
    - slight McKenzie stretch
    - hamstring stetch whilst lying on my back

    My wife has been so helpful and has done all my cooking and cleaning duties as well as looking after the little one, Ive not sat down properly since I first went off work.

    Totally stopped all my gym time (cardio and weights), we have a pull up bar in the locla gym which has handles at waist high for elevated crunches, I use this to just hang my body off the floor, apparently this helps to release the vertebrae compression in your spine. I usually hang for like 40 seconds then release, rest and then go for another 40 seconds.

    Finally I've been hitting the pills again but only the muscle relaxer's due to my back becoming mega tight after my suspect minor disc bulge relapse mentioned above.

    Honestly Hutson after all of the above I feel nearly back on my feet!! I have developed some numbness on the outside of my right quad but I believe this is just part of the nerve compression symptoms. I have zero pressure in my lower back as it stands. Its still early days yet and I havent built up the confidence to try and sit down for an extended period of time but its the most progres I've had since the pain at work last month.

    Sorry for the long post, but I'd strongly suggest you take serious rest if you havent already, stop everything thats causing you pain and rest up. Once you feel a little better start to try out the muscle strengthening exercises that suit you. Pain during an activity is a sign your doing something wrong, listen to your body before you cause extra damage. If you have somebody to help out that will seriously improve recovery.

    Again sorry for the essay but hope this helps as well as gives you some light at the end of the tunnel!

  • hutson797hhutson797 Posts: 56
    edited 08/14/2012 - 5:19 AM
    Hey there. No apologies for the essay. I'm glad you wrote back. I'm always look forward to hear how you are progressing. And its awesome to hear about you're improving.

    Yes, I am still having to push through the pain. Which is exactly what you're NOT supposed to do, but I really don't have anyone to help, so leaving work is not an option. I'd lose my job if I took off for a period of time.

    As of the end of last week I was doing great. Down to like a 2-1 pain level. I overdid it on Saturday trying to do too much around town. Back to a 4-5 pain level now. (Dumb, I know.) But at least I realize it CAN get better.

    Having to sit at work it certainly NOT helping. I still have a LOT of pressure on my lower back. What worries me is that I hope I am not causing permanent damage by sitting at work.
    -I'm doing my stretches everyday. (i'm a little nervous about the McKenzie, seems to me that it would have the opposite effect)
    -Using ice helps when I can use it. Dunno if heat would help with a herniated disc in the acute phase.
    -Going to try and do even less exercise than I am doing now, (very light cardio) maybe that will help.

    Are the muscle relaxers helping? I would like to go back to the doc to ask about those. My back definitely locks up quickly sitting.

    I'm so confused by this stuff.
    -Pain level at a 5-6 this morning, now (its about noon) almost a 2-3.
    -I have random SHOOTING pain like 2-3 times a day for about 5 sec each time.

    Glad I'm not the only one. Keep me updated man and keep at it!

  • Sally711SSally711 Posts: 156
    edited 08/16/2012 - 3:27 PM
    Hello-- just read through your posts, and wow- could be my symptoms also. I have been in the LBP 'club' for about 5 years now- injured while working a physical job, and my darn stubbornness about keeping going, pushing through the pain sure kicked my butt! I have nerve damage now, which could have possibly not occurred had I found this site earlier in my recovery. I simply thought I would get over it, get back to my old self again. Well, though I still have hope, I do know I will never be at the physical level I once was in life.
    BUT, I have found great ways to adapt to situations, (like prepping dinner through the day instead of all at once). I still garden,. using bathtubs on cement slabs so that my veggies are at my comfort level to work in.. not on the ground).
    You guys have nailed the PT and exercising on the head... keeping the core strong is soooo important! Ergonomics, posture, all of it is key to help support the back.
    One thing I didn't read earlier is swimming... fantastic for our backs.. and the zero gravity feeling is wonderful! Only in the pool can I really feel like I am stretching my legs,back etc....
    I also have worked through depression related to chronic pain, learning about cognitive behavior therapy-- has helped me mentally.
    All I can add.. is that pain is the way our bodies communicate with us. listen to it! dont' ignore.. push through to be tough. It won't work. can you take time off work with short term disability>? Try to make recovery the most important, (non-family) thing in your life!! I have found that the first few months are so important to recovery.
    I look forward to reading more about how you guys are doing! You are both great support for each other:)
    Have you tried the stand up work station? Instead of sitting... you stand but lean on a board thingy... check it out. I haven't seen one myself, but do know they exist. May help you so you can keep working your job. :)
    Keep your heads up, posture correct, and have a great day!!!!
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