Hi all. This is my first post in spine-health. I wanted to convey my experience in the hope that it might help someone. On December 7th, 2012, I was lifting a heavy tree limb. I thought at that time that I had pulled a muscle. It was somewhat of a struggle getting back to my car, but at that time, I only had back pain that felt like a pulled muscle. About 3 days later, I started feeling pain down my left leg, mainly at my knee and below down to above the ankle. They were sharp pains that would come and go. They were not consistent in any manner. They just came and went, but happened throughout the day. I also could not straighten my left leg completely. I ended up having to go on a week long trip for my work, so I did not go to the doctor for over two weeks. When I finally did get to a doctor, this particular doctor told me I had a bulging disc at L5 S1. She had me lay on the bench and lift my legs straight up. My right leg was fine, although Im not flexible in the first place. My left leg only got up a small amount before it became very painful. She also took an XRay, but no MRI. I left there with a shot of steroid to the bottom and a prescription for oral steroids and muscle relaxers. She also prescribed physical therapy. I did the steroids, but not the muscle relaxers. I did to PT. The pain was pretty bad at this point in my left leg and in my left buttocks. After the first PT visit, the physical therapist told me my left side pelvis had shifted and that it was 'out of alignment'. He worked on getting that back in place, along with other muscle exercise. The pain in my leg only got better after the first visit, and after that, no good results at all. The pain in my left calf and my left buttocks remained, but not as severe as it was in the beginning. It should be said that the pain in my left buttocks (which I thought was my piriformis muscle) remained constant. It never got any better really. In fact, I thought that I had piriformis syndrome instead of a bulging disc, based on my symptoms. After the pulled muscle feeling at the beginning, I never really had any pain in my lower back.
At about six weeks after the lifting accident, the pain in my left leg and in my left buttocks got so bad that I could not stand it any more, much of what I feel like I read through some of the forums. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being worst, I think it was about a 8 or 9. I also had an aching pain in my heel bone, which was new. Also, my hamstring in my left leg started having pain as well. I had never really had pain like that before, but on a chart I saw at the hospital (which is coming up), the frowning faces I saw rated about a 8 to 9. Thats all I have to go on. I actually quit going to PT because it hurt so bad. I called my doctor that I had seen twice and she was out of town. Her nurse was absolutely useless to me. She basically told me to go see someone else, of which I had no one to go see. I have always been in excellent health other than this. She was going to be out of town for the next week and a half. So I waited a few days thinking I could deal with it. However, on Friday, Feb 1st, I couldn't take it anymore. The pain was just about unbearable to me, so I called another doctor. I called another facility with the same group, and had an appointment with a different doctor. After five minutes with him, he ordered an MRI that day.
I did the MRI and it took about 20 minutes during the whole MRI process. I did have to go through the admitting process, etc to get there. So the process took a while. I just mean the MRI alone took 20 minutes. The doctor I saw that morning called me that afternoon and said he could see from the MRI why I was in pain. He told me he had me an appointment for a spine specialist with the same group the next morning at 8:30am. I agreed to go.
I went to the spine specialist with this group, and he looked at the MRI. He found that my L5 disc had ruptured and came completely apart from the rest of the disc. In fact, when I look at the picture of the MRI, it ruptured and went up against the nerve. Not only that, but the lamina also had broken into pieces and come apart. They were, essentially, free from where they were supposed to be.
He told me I had three options. 1. Do nothing. 2. Get a spine block, and who really knows how long that will last, and 3. Do surgery and get all the free elements out. I opted for surgery.
He had me leave and go directly to the hospital and get pre-admitted for the surgery. He had me in surgery the very next day, Feb 6th, 2013. I could not eat anything from 12 midnight on the 6th on until after the surgery. I ended up at the hospital at 7:30am, and the surgery was at around 11am. The surgery took about an hour, and I was able to leave around 3pm that same day. I had to eat, pee, and walk. All of which I was able to do without issue.
What I remember about surgery: I went in the waiting area getting ready to go into surgery. When they wheeled me in, I was in there all of about two minutes and only saw three people (the nurse, the anesthesiologist, and some other guy). After they put the mask over my face, the next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery area. My mouth was very cotton mouthed, but I recall immediately that I had no pain in my left leg or left buttocks! It was all gone.
Now, after I have left the surgery and gone home, they gave me a prescription for a pain killer, of which I have only used one when I went to bed that night. I have taken it easy and the only time I feel anything is when I twist, which sometimes I can feel that sciatica again, but only about a 2 or 3 out of 10 in the pain scale. The other thing I feel is when Im trying to get up after laying back or down, in which I can feel where the opening in my back is. Thats really about it. At this point, Im in day 3 of recovery. I walked two miles today without issue. I did have to go slower on inclines, etc, but I just took baby steps. I didn't feel comfortable getting on the main road of where I live. Yes, I do move slower, and Im planning on moving slower just to make sure recovery is good. Id say it took me about an hour to walk the two miles. Ive also been out today (day 3) in the car for a while. Not driving, just as a passenger. It has not bothered me at all.
One thing I had determined to do was to get a second opinion after the spine doctor that I went to. However, as it turns out, he had done thousands of these surgeries, according to his bio. Yes, I researched the man as much as I could before seeing him. Why not, he might be cutting me open, Id like to know as much as I could about him. I actually asked him as well. If he had told me he has done about 20 of them in the past, I would have gone somewhere else. However, I felt good that his experience was such, that I didn't need a second opinion.
I hope this is helpful to some.
I guess I should also add that Im 40 years old. This seems to happen to a wide range of ages.